Infographic courtesy of City of Hope
Did you know that since the creation of the cervical cancer screening in the 1950’s (AKA “pap test”), there are now 70% fewer cervical cancer fatalities per year?
It’s true: when pre-cancers and early cancers are found during a pap test, the chance of preventing future cancer is simply amazing.
With such a great cancer-prevention track record, you would think all women ages 21-65 would take advantage of such a fantastic test. Unfortunately, the national average is only around 56%. Some women think that if they are too old to have children, or if they’re not having sex anymore, they don’t need a pap test. Not true! Many things can trigger possible pre-cancer, so your best bet is to Get The Test. And here’s the best part: after a normal pap test result, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three whole years until your next one.
The pap test only checks for cervical cancer, while different types of cancers (ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar) require different tests. No need to get all of them at one time – let your doctor guide you. When cancer cells are discovered in the early stage, you don’t even know they exist. That’s why getting the pap test is so important – to find those silent cells. As you know with all parts of your body, if anything seems “different” than usual, talk about it with your doctor. They’re used to answering questions, and you know there’s nothing they haven’t already heard.
After you get your pap test, your doctor will call you with the results. If your test comes back “abnormal”, don’t panic – there are many reasons why test results may not be considered “normal”. It usually doesn’t even mean you have cancer. Call your doctor, get the information you need, and take the next step. Your doctor will explain any details or treatment, and guide you all the way.
If you are 30 or older, you can also choose to add an HPV test to your pap test. The two tests are done by your doctor at the same time, and if your pap/HPV “co-test” comes back normal, your doctor may let you wait as long as five years, before your next one. If you are over 65, have had normal pap test results for many years, or had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions (like fibroids), your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have the pap test anymore.
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, as long as you remember to get your pap test and follow up with your doctor regularly. So take action, Smart Woman. Get The Test.
If you’re ready to learn more about this amazing cancer-preventing test, here’s some information about Test Results, and a fun graphic information poster, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Infographic poster: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/infographic.htm
The Climacteric, The Change of Life, or my favorite:
MANopause. That’s right, fella’s, back away slowly…
Throughout a woman’s life, hormones are constantly shifting and changing, rising, and falling, performing an intricate dance. When the ovaries reach the end of their lifespan, on average around the age of 50, they no longer produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. For some women this happens suddenly and they are thrust into distressing symptoms such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and pain with sex, low sex drive, anxiety, irritability, and even depression. Perimenopause, the years before the official diagnosis of menopause, can last 10 years or more. When you have not had a period for an entire year, we can officially say you are in menopause.
One of the most common distressing symptoms are called “hot flashes”. Hot flashes begin as a sudden sensation of heat centered on the upper chest and face that rapidly becomes generalized. The sensation of heat lasts from two to four minutes, is often associated with profuse perspiration and occasionally palpitations, and is sometimes followed by chills, shivering, and a feeling of anxiety. Hot flashes may range from less than one each day to as many as one per hour during the day and night. On average, symptoms last 5 years but 30% of women have symptoms for 10 years and 9% of women have symptoms for 20 years
Modern medicine can offer relief from distressing symptoms, but there is no “cure” for this very natural life process. As with any medication, there are risks and benefits. A discussion with your provider can help you decide if medication or hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to manage symptoms at home. These suggestions are basic recommendations for self-care:
For the management of hot flashes and night sweats:
- Lower the room temperature
- Use fans
- Dress in layers that can be easily shed
- Wear a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin.
- Avoid spicy food, hot drinks, alcohol, stress
- Weight Loss
To keep your mood and emotions steady:
- Daily Exercise
- Daily Yoga or other mindful meditation and relaxation
For vaginal dryness and pain with sex:
- Use a vaginal moisturizer three times a week.
- Use lubrication for sex.
- Sorry, we have no great medical solution for libido
To protect your bones, support your immune system, and promote sleep:
- 1200mg of Calcium
- 400mg Magnesium
- 2000IU Vitamin D daily.
Calcium is only absorbed 500mg at a time so taking a supplement twice a day with meals, in addition to at least one serving of dairy or other calcium fortified food daily will supply what you need. The Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium and it activates it in your muscle and bone cells so it can work for you. Magnesium and Vitamin D help with mood and a healthy immune system, too.
For more information on perimenopause and menopause, you can explore the following:
The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
-Kirstin Johnson, Certified Nurse Midwife