January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
More than 12,000 women are diagnosed annually with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die each year. However, innovations in diagnostics and prevention could help reduce that number, while also giving women a better understanding of their health.
• The basics: Woman 21-65 years old should have a Pap smear every three years according to new health guidelines, along with a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test in some cases — not annually as most women were taught. The Pap smear detects changes in cervical cells caused by persistent HPV infections, and the HPV test improves detection. After an abnormal result, doctors may perform a colposcopy exam by applying a solution to the cervix and watching for areas that turn white (acetowhitening), which can indicate abnormal cells. Certain women may need more frequent screening or treatment to remove pre-cancerous areas.
• Computer-aided detection: Historically colposcopy has been a very subjective exam, and accurately identifying biopsy sites is a challenging task. DySIS colposcopy, a clinically-proven, FDA-cleared device, adds Dynamic Spectral Imaging to objectively quantify acetowhitening, and displays the results in a color-coded map.
“Its ability to help me to select biopsy sites has resulted in me finding an increased number of significant pathologies,” says Dr. John Patterson of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare of DySISmap.
• Reduced anxiety: Receiving news from your doctor that your Pap smear result is abnormal is frightening for any woman. However, the new computer-enhanced imaging offers more clarity for both the clinician and the patient.
“It was really good to be able to see the screen and feel a little more in control and understand what was happening,” says Heather Holyoak, a medical student who had three colposcopy procedures and a biopsy over the past three years. “For me, it wasn’t remotely painful or uncomfortable, and it could be something that puts your mind at ease.”
• Prevention: Two FDA-approved vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections of high-risk HPV types that cause the majority of cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine is recommended to be given to pre-teen girls and boys at 11-12 years old before they are sexually active, but can be given up to age 26 for women and 21 for men.
For more information on screening, diagnosis and prevention, visit cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer and http://www.DySISMedical.com.
Cervical cancer is completely preventable and the best prevention is being regularly tested to detect abnormalities early. With these new tools, cervical cancer can be eradicated in our lifetime.