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Lake Regional Raises Awareness During Cervical Health Month

Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Lake Regional OBGYN Angela Breckenridge, D.O., FACOOG, encourages women to take action to prevent cervical cancer. Lake Regional OBGYN Angela Breckenridge, D.O., FACOOG, encourages women to take action to prevent cervical cancer.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Lake Regional OB-GYN Angela Breckenridge, D.O., FACOOG, encourages women of all ages to take steps to reduce their cervical cancer risk.

“Advanced cervical cancer is almost always preventable,” said Dr. Breckenridge, who cares for women at Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology. “I encourage women to take action with vaccines and screening to protect their health and their lives.”

Prevention

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many don’t know they are infected.

“The best way to treat HPV is to prevent it,” Dr. Breckenridge said. “That’s the power of vaccination. We’ve seen a dramatic drop in cervical cancer risk among vaccinated women. One study showed young vaccinated women were 87 percent less likely to get cervical cancer than the unvaccinated.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children who are 11 or 12 — boys and girls — receive HPV vaccination.

“The most effective time to vaccinate is before a teenager becomes sexually active,” Dr. Breckenridge said.

Even so, older adolescents can benefit from the HPV vaccine. In fact, the vaccine is recommended for all women and men up to age 26, and for some adults through 45.

“Anyone 45 years old and younger who has not been vaccinated should consider this vaccine and discuss it with their doctor,” Dr. Breckenridge said.

Early Detection

Most cervical cancers start with precancerous changes that gradually turn into cancer.

“Screening can find these abnormal changes for early intervention,” Dr. Breckenridge said. “That stops cancer from ever developing or from developing too far for simple treatments.”

Screening can include the Pap test, the human papillomavirus (HPV) test or a combination. Both tests are simple and fast and use sample cells from the cervix. The Pap test looks for cell changes and abnormal cells, while the HPV test looks for the virus that causes cell changes.

Average-risk individuals should begin screening at 21 and should follow their health care provider’s recommendation for which testing to use. It’s OK to stop testing if you’re older than 65 and have had normal test results for many years. It’s also OK to stop if you’ve had a total hysterectomy — both your uterus and cervix have been removed — for a noncancerous condition, such as fibroids, and you have never had a history of cervical dysplasia or high-risk HPV. Always discuss your situation with your doctor before stopping screening.

Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages annual exams, which include a pelvic exam. Patients have the right to request an annual Pap test. However, annual Pap tests are not always covered under all insurance providers. Talk to your provider to determine the best testing schedule for you.

Help is Available

Show Me Healthy Women provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings throughout Missouri, for women meeting certain age, income and insurance guidelines.

“Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology is a Show Me Healthy Women provider because we want every woman to have access to quality screening and treatment services for breast and cervical cancers,” Dr. Breckenridge said.

Under Show Me Healthy Women, cervical cancer screenings are available to women age 35 to 64. For more information about the program, contact Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology or visit lakeregional.com/obgyn.

Lake Regional Obstetrics and Gynecology provides appointments in Osage Beach and Eldon. Call 573.302.2764 to make an appointment in Osage Beach and 573.557.2553 to make an appointment in Eldon.