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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | January 13th, 2019


    If you cannot answer that question, we have a problem. Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. About 4,000 women will die of cervical cancer. The majority of the women that will die will be black women. It does not make sense for any woman to die of cervical cancer in the United States. We have the means of preventing and detecting cervical cancer early when it is treatable.  It is called SCREENING, SCREENING, and SCREENING.

    The majority of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have not been screened or have not followed up when they have had an abnormal screening test. This past summer, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released recommendations for cervical cancer screening. Women between ages 21 and 65 years old should be screened for cervical cancer.

    • For women 21 – 29 years old, you should have a pap smear every 3 years.
    • For women 30 – 65 years old, you can be screened by a pap smear every 3 years OR high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone every 5 years OR hrHPV and pap smear (cotesting) every 5 years.

    If you are a high risk patient or you have had an abnormal screening test, you may require additional testing or may need to get tested more often. If you are over 65 years old and your doctor has decided that you no longer need to be screened for cervical cancer, make sure that you fulfill the criteria for no longer needing to be screened. Talk with your health care provider.

    When was your last pap smear and what was the result?

    You cannot assume that every time a speculum is placed in your vagina, you are getting a pap smear because we no longer obtain pap smears yearly. It is important to confirm that you have been screened, to know what type of screening and to know your results. If your results are normal, depending on the type of screening you will need to be tested in 3 – 5 years.  If your test in abnormal, you might need additional testing like a colposcopy or you may need treatment. It is important for you to understand the follow up that you need. Do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you do not understand what should be the next step.

    Lack of insurance should not stop you from getting screened or being treated for a precancerous lesion or cervical cancer. Please click here, to find out where you can go if you cannot afford to be screened or treated. No one should be dying of cervical cancer in the United States.

    January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. For more information on cervical cancer, please click here. Another tool to help with prevention is the HPV vaccine, which will be discussed in a future blog.

    Also remember just because you are not getting a pap smear every year does not mean that you should not get your yearly well woman exam.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.

    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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