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Prisma Health encourages women to maintain regular OB/GYN screenings during Cervical Health Awareness Month

Friday, January 29, 2021

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Prisma Health is encouraging women to be aware of the risks and symptoms of cervical cancer during January, Cervical Health Awareness Month. Prisma Health encourages all women to keep up with their annual OB/GYN visit to maintain testing and help catch any potential signs early. Cervical cancer is considered one of the easiest gynecological cancers to prevent with regular screenings.

“Many conditions that affect women’s health, including the human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, can exist without any signs or symptoms. Regular screening with gynecologic exams and tests can detect these conditions at earlier stages when they can be treated most effectively,” said Elizabeth Nodelman, MD, an OB/GYN physician at Prisma Health in Columbia, South Carolina.

There are two screening tests that help prevent cervical cancer or detect it early:

  • A Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes in the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately.
  • An HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes to occur.

In addition, the HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine can be given as early as 11 years old and as late as 45 years old. It is recommended for boys and girls as HPV can cause cancer of other areas, not just the cervix.

All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women over 30. HPV is the main cause, causing 99% of cervical cancers. Some HPV infections will go away on their own, however, some persist and may develop into cancer. Once diagnosed with HPV, a patient is considered a carrier of the virus even if symptoms do not appear. First signs of cervical cancer may be abnormal bleeding, spotting or watery discharge from the vagina.  Signs of advanced cancer can include pelvic pain, problems urinating and swollen legs.

“It can often take many years for changes in cervical cells to become cancer, so regular screening is crucial to help detect changes before they develop into a more serious condition,” said Erin Thurston, MD, an OB/GYN physician at Prisma Health in Greenville, South Carolina. “We recommend all women discuss the issue with their provider and determine the best schedule of testing.”

When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable. The survival rate is high and associated with good quality of life. To schedule a screening with an OB/GYN at Prisma Health, visit PrismaHealth.org/Women.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.

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