Focus on wellness can reduce cervical cancer risk
Special to The Union
For Dr. Lystra Wilson-Celestine, it is something she sees every day in her OB/GYN office – women who have spent years taking care of others before realizing that they, too, need care.
“I see women all the time come in and their children are older and they are finally getting around to scheduling that annual exam – after years of avoiding it,” Dr. Celestine says. “It’s really true that women spend so much time caring for others, they often neglect themselves.”
Dr. Celestine is passionate about encouraging women to care for themselves holistically – mind, body and spirit. And she hopes that part of that self-care includes an annual exam with their physician that includes a screening for cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is the fourth leading type of cancer in women,” Dr. Celestine explains. “However, it can be found in the early stages through regular pap smears.”
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January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, more than 13,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
Cervical cancer develops over time, which means it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.
Deaths from cervical cancer in the United States continue to decline by approximately two percent a year, according to the NCCC.
Fewer women are dying from cervical cancer due to the widespread use of the pap smear, which can detect cervical abnormalities early and allow for early treatment.
The NCCC says that most women who have abnormal cervical cells that develop into cervical cancer have never had a pap test or have not had one in the previous three to five years. Most deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented by regular screening and follow-up care.
“By performing regular pap screenings, we can find cancer while it is still in the precancerous, lesion stage,” Dr. Celestine explains. “At that stage, we can use cryosurgery, a type of freezing, to remove the lesion easily and effectively.”
Most women treated at this stage have an excellent outcome and won’t require additional treatment.
Once cervical cancer has progressed, it typically requires radiation and chemotherapy, and possibly surgery.
While early stage cervical cancer typically has no symptoms, cervical cancer that has progressed may be accompanied by vaginal bleeding, abnormal discharge, and – depending on how advanced the cancer is – pelvic discomfort.
In addition to regular screening, Dr. Celestine says there are other steps women can take to help prevent cervical cancer.
“About 70 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by the Human Papillomarvirus (the most common sexually transmitted disease),” explains Dr. Celestine. “It is important to take the steps necessary to prevent HPV – practice safe sex, use a condom, avoid having multiple partners. Sexual history is an important risk factor.”
Dr. Celestine also says that women can reduce their risk for many types of cancer, including cervical, by focusing on their overall health.
“Eat a balanced diet, including whole foods and plenty of nutrients,” she explains. “Get adequate hydration, get enough rest, reduce your stress and exercise regularly. Try to use nature to improve your health, too – get enough sunshine and use it to help take care of your spiritual side.”
Dr. Celestine reminds women that whether the topic is cervical health or any other concern, their overall health and wellness can have an impact and should be a priority.
“Women drive the health attitude of the home,” she says. “If women are healthy, their children and husbands tend to be healthy to. And that can transfer to our whole society – healthy women, make for healthier societies.”
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