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Fighting Cancer: Cervical Cancer

Posted: January 2, 2014 - 1:39pm

Happy New Year! Pack away the decorations. Loosen your belt from the holiday food and take an aspirin to recover from all of your celebrations. It’s time to look forward with hope and excitement to the year ahead.

Part of that tradition is making resolutions. What’s on your list? Is it to eat healthy, get fit and lose weight? Maybe to manage debt, be more responsible with your money or to go back to school?

Whatever makes your list this year, please be sure to make a list of health screenings that you need in order to be the healthiest that you can be this year.

Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Never is this more true than in working diligently to prevent cancer.

Take responsibility for your health. Work with your doctor to determine your risks for certain cancers and develop a plan to screen for them.

One type of cancer that is often successfully treated when found early is cervical cancer. With regular screening, it is, hands down, the easiest female cancer to prevent. January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month.

Cervical cancer presents when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV can remain in your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after first contracting the virus, so it is very important to have regular screenings.

There are two screening tests that can find cervical cancer early. A pap test, also called a pap smear, looks for precancerous cells on the cervix that might become cancer if not treated early. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus that can cause cell changes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pap test is recommended for women ages 21 to 65 and can be done in a doctor’s office. During the test, a doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the cervix to look for cell changes. If the cells are deemed abnormal, the doctor may do additional tests to determine if the cells are precancerous or cancer.

When the HPV test is performed in conjunction with the pap test, the cells will also be tested for the HPV virus in a laboratory. Talk with your health care provider to determine if the HPV test is right for you.

While preparing my research for this article, I came upon a handy list on the Mayo Clinic’s Web site. In case you need some inspiration, their article, Cancer Prevention: 7 Steps to Reduce Your Risk, can also work for your New Year’s resolution list. Their recommendations are: don’t use tobacco, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and be physically active, protect yourself from the sun, get immunized, avoid risky behavior, an get regular medical care.

Sounds like a great list for 2014! I will be concentrating on numbers two and three, as I’m a bit more on the round side of being in shape. (Circle is a shape, after all!)

What’s on your list for the new year? Share with us on our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/pages/Savannah-River-Cancer-Foundation/217635844952292 – and inspire others to make decisions for a healthier lifestyle in 2014.

If you have been diagnosed with any form of cancer the Savannah River Cancer Foundation can help. The foundation helps anyone residing in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell and Edgefield counties with any type of cancer being treated at any facility, regardless of the patient’s age. Financial assistance is available for help with transportation to and from cancer treatments and with cancer medication cost to patients who qualify. Regardless of income, the foundation also provides referrals to other organizations that provide assistance and maintains the Web site www.savannahrivercancerfoundation.org, which has cancer information and links to other cancer organizations.

The foundation also co-facilitates a support group for cancer patients, their families and caregivers. It is held the third Wednesday of each month (excluding December) from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Parlor at Aiken’s First Baptist Church, 120 Chesterfield Street, NE, in downtown Aiken. The support group allows attendees to share their experiences, exchange information about available resources and reinforce the sense that they are not alone in their journey to survivorship.

Financial assistance applications can be found on the foundation’s Web site, or patients can call (803) 649-LIFE (5433) to request an application by mail. The Savannah River Cancer Foundation is at 235 Barnwell Avenue, NW, Aiken, SC 29801. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The information in this monthly column is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

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