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Provider Focus

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Prevent Cervical Cancer

MHP Stresses Regular Screenings to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Mahaska Health Partnership Adult Medicine Nurse Practitioner Lisa Nelson urges women to get regular screenings to prevent cervical cancer.

“A regular pap test is the best defense women have for protecting themselves against cervical cancer because abnormal cells can usually be detected before they become cancerous,” Nelson stressed.

Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, which is where the uterus meets the birth canal. According to the American Cancer Society, there are two main types of cervical cancer called squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. “Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the cells that cover the surface of the cervix while adenocarcinoma develops from the mucus producing glands,” Nelson explained.

The American Cancer Society said that, when detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treated cancers. “The recommendation is for women not in a monogamous relationship to receive pap tests annually,” Nelson said. “Once a woman is in a monogamous relationship and as long as no other risk factors are present, a pap can be done less frequently at the advice of her primary care provider.”

According to the American Cancer Society, several risk factors increase a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. The most prominent risk factor is infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus infects cells on the surface of the skin and is spread through skin-to-skin contact. It may cause growths called papilloma, or warts, to form on the skin. “In most women, the body’s immune system will fight HPV on its own, however, a woman whose immune system is compromised is more susceptible,” Nelson explained.

Other risk factors for developing cervical cancer include smoking, other sexually transmitted diseases, diet and/or obesity as well as multiple full-term pregnancies and a family history. “Some women with these risk factors may never develop the disease but it is important to get regular screenings if you know you have increased risk,” Nelson stressed.

According to Nelson, women with pre-cancerous or early cervical cancer usually have no symptoms but if a woman notices a difference in vaginal discharge or experiences abnormal bleeding, Nelson said she should seek medical attention.

Nelson practices full time in Adult Medicine on the MHP campus is Oskaloosa. To make an appointment, call 641-672-3360 or visit our website at mahaskahealth.org.