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Cervical Health Awareness Month: A Conversation for Females of Every Generation

January 27, 2021 | Brown, Kristina F., DO, FACOG | Penn Highlands Life's Journey


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventive screenings have been an important point of discussion with some patients feeling unsure about going to see their physicians. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve reminded our communities of the importance of routine checkups and those annual tests during the pandemic. That’s because so often, the ailment you’re being tested for is a “silent” illness—that is, often without symptoms and only detectable through routine screening. 

This is often the case with women’s health issues, says Kristina Brown, DO, FACOG, a physician at Penn Highlands Life’s Journey. Speaking particularly of cervical cancer in observance of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, Dr. Brown says preventable health care measures have proven vital in reducing the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States. In fact, the American college of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased by more than 50 percent in the past 30 years, thanks in large part due to widespread screening. "Annual examinations that include pap smear testing per current guidelines with your primary provider or OB/GYN are a critical aspect of preventative care," Dr. Brown says. "I encourage every woman to receive preventative screening, because waiting for symptoms means you have missed your opportunity for preventative medicine." In the case of cervical cancer, those symptoms may include bleeding between periods, increased pain or bleeding with intercourse, discharge, or general pain in the pelvic area.

Brown also brings another crucial cervical health point to light by speaking to the benefits of the vaccine that prevents human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and, disconcertingly, is the most common sexually transmitted infection among young women. The Gardasil HPV vaccine prevents certain strains of HPV, Brown explains, and therefore also prevents cervical cancer. "I would encourage everyone to discuss this vaccination with their primary health care provider to determine if it’s right for them," she says. "The HPV vaccine is one of the very few vaccinations that exist to help in the effort to prevent a cancer.”   

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the HPV vaccine is recommended for males and females ages nine to 45 years. Dr. Brown recognizes that this can be an interesting conversation for families to discuss due to the early age of vaccine administration; however, these discussions are important to have with your family doctor, pediatrician, or OB/GYN—and, she points out, this is not the same as giving children permission to engage in sexual activity. "If we had a vaccine that could potentially prevent breast cancer later in life, I’m not sure we would have the same hesitations," Brown says. She also emphasizes that adults should consider immunization, as unanticipated life events, like the loss of a partner or a change in relationship, can change in ways that may elevate the risk of cervical cancer.

With the new year in full swing, Dr. Brown encourages all women to put self-care first. "We definitely encourage people to get their annual examinations.” To learn more about women’s care at Penn Highlands, please visit www.phhealthcare.org/women.

On March 24, Penn Highlands DuBois will host a free breast and cervical cancer screening event for Amish women ages 21 and older. Call 814-371-1900 with questions.



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Brown, Kristina F., DO, FACOG

Specialties

Obstetrics / Gynecology

Locations

Penn Highlands Life's Journey

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