By: Serena T. Wills [space] In 1995 I received a call from my gynecologist that changed my 20 year old free spirited life. She said, “We received the results from your pap smear and it’s abnormal. We need you to come in for a biopsy.” She told me that I should have a colposcopy done right away. A colposcopy consists of me taking a closer look at your cervix with an electric microscope and the biopsy. [space]
The following week I was told that I had abnormal cells that were benign. The doctor described that some patients could have abnormal cells for years and not know because they have no symptoms until it festers into cervical cancer. In order to remove the abnormal cells I had a procedure called a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure). After the procedure was done I had cramps and was bleeding for several days. At the time what I had was not named but is now called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). [space]
HPV is passed on from one person to the next through sex or even skin to skin in certain areas of the body that is infected with HPV. In most cases the body fights off the virus and the infection goes away without treatment. But in some women the infection can last and turn into cervical cancer if not detected. In 2001 I had a reoccurrence after a test came back abnormal. This time I had a safer procedure done that was not available in the 90‘s. The procedure was a freezing method called Cryosurgery which was safer to the uterus. If I had undergone another laser procedure (LEEP) then I would need a stitch to strengthen my uterus if I ever wanted children. [space]
Unfortunately my mother (Marguerite Wills) results didn’t turn out well. In August 2009 she admitted herself to the hospital after having trouble breathing and moving her bowels. She was severely fatigued, had a loss of appetite and was bloated. She thought she might have had a case of walking pneumonia or that it was menopause. The results on August 10th, 2009 changed hers and my family’s life forever. She had two malignant tumors one on each ovary. She had Stage IV Ovarian cancer and it had spread to her stomach.[space] Mom was inoperable and her lungs were compromised from the cancerous fluid that expunged from the tumors and made its way throughout her body. The only solution was either chemotherapy or nothing. Mom decided to do chemotherapy and battled Ovarian cancer for six months. She passed away on February 19th, 2010. Throughout her journey we learned about Ovarian and other gynecological cancers. They are noted as the “silent and secret” cancers. Once discovered they can become fast moving. Her doctor told me that I need to get a CA-125 test done annually which measures a level of protein that’s found on the surface of many ovarian cancer cells. CA stands for cancer antigen. A normal level is about 35. My mother’s CA-125 was 3,000. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition states that there is ongoing research for a test however one has not been developed yet. [space]
Preventive tips and suggestions: [space]
- Go to the doctor regularly. Schedule your annual visit with your gynecologist.
- Ask for the HPV test to be done even if you don’t think you have it. I had no symptoms but had HPV. Symptoms for HPV include genital warts, RRP is a condition in which warts grow in the throat. These growths can sometimes block the airway, causing a hoarse voice or trouble breathing and cancer.
- Practice safe sex.
- Go to the doctor with your partner and get tested together for any STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
- Eat healthy, work out, stay away from a lot of cholesterol, fat, sugar, processed foods, inflammatory items such as wheat and gluten. Eat a lot of vegetables, pure juice (invest in a juicer or a good blender). Although this doesn’t prevent cancer you want to have a healthy body and immune system so you can fight off infections, viruses, cancer and chronic illnesses.
- If you have abnormal periods consult your doctor right away.
- If you are within the age range (ages 9-26) and have not had HPV then talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccination which is available for both men and women.
- In regards to Ovarian cancer call the doctor right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, feeling the need to urinate urgently or often. Other symptoms include, fatigue, upset stomach or heartburn, back pain, pain during sex, constipation and menstrual changes.
- Monitor your CA-125 when your lab work is done. Ask for a print out of all the results.
- If your mother, grandmother or sister had Ovarian Cancer then alert your doctor and ask for a Transvaginal ultrasound of your ovaries. Insurance will cover it annually as long as you have a proper medical referral. Although not 100% accurate it’s good to use for detection until a test is developed.
Statistics on HPV and Gynecological Cancers: [space]
- According to a CDC (Centers for Disease Control) report in January 2014 approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
- The other cancers that can occur are vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).
- An average of 12,360 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer each year and about 4,020 deaths occur annually according to a 2013 report.
- According to The American Cancer Society, Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
- Also in 2014 they estimate there will be approximately 21,980 new cases of Ovarian cancer and 14,270 deaths will occur this year. It is ranked as #5 for cause of cancer death in women. A woman’s risk of getting Ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 72. Her lifetime chance of dying from Ovarian cancer is about 1 in 100.
- Around 50% of the women diagnosed are over the age of 63.
Get the facts and be educated so you can live healthier. Besides The American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control you can get information from The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition,Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and Tia’s Way (a website dedicated to Cervical Cancer).