January is recognized as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month across the United States. This helps to bring awareness of the importance surrounding women getting screened for cervical cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2015, 12,845 new cases of cervical cancer were reported. For every 100,000 women, eight new cervical cancer cases were reported and two died of cancer. Dr. Amy Hurlburt with Utica Park Clinic shares how important it is for women to get screened, the symptoms and signs of cervical cancer and the most common questions her patients ask her about it.
Dr. Hurlburt shares that there are several symptoms of cervical cancer that are important to be cognizant of. “The first signs may be a change in the bleeding pattern. It may include changes from spotting between your periods or after intercourse or a change in how heavy your period is,” she explains. “There may also be a change in the appearance of discharge from the vagina.” When it comes to recognizing the advanced stages of cervical cancer, Dr. Hurlburt says, “There may be problems in urinating or a change in defecation. It may also include new onset pelvic pain and possibly lower leg swelling from a mass pressing on a vessel.”
Dr. Hurlburt says, “Major risk factors for cervical cancer include having multiple sexual partners, having a male sexual partner who has had multiple sexual partners, a family history of cervical cancer and smoking.” Additional risk factors include problems with the immune system, being younger than 18 years old when you first had sexual intercourse and certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia.
The most common questions Dr. Hurlburt receives from patients when discussing cervical cancer are “When do I go for my cervical cancer screening?” and “What if my cervical cancer screening comes back abnormal? Does this mean I have cancer?”. Dr. Hurlburt encourages you to speak with your gynecologist regarding the cervical cancer screening. Standardly, women are encouraged to begin getting annual screenings when they turn 21. Dr. Hurlburt says, “we use guidelines to help us follow a standard of care for patients, but if you are having new onset of symptoms, this may indicate that you need a pap smear regardless of whether you have had a normal one the last few times you have visited your gynecologist.”
If you are looking for a gynecologist or have further questions on cervical cancer, please call (918) 574-0150 to make an appointment with Dr. Hurlburt at Utica Park Clinic’s newest location in Bixby.