Cervical Cancer Specialist Burlington VT
Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology
General Surgery, Surgical Oncology
Hematology / Oncology
Oncology (Cancer), Gynecological Oncology
Medical School: New York Univ Sch Of Med, New York Ny 10016
Graduation Year: 1992
Oncology (Cancer), Radiation Oncology
Medical School: Univ Of Vt Coll Of Med, Burlington Vt 05405
Graduation Year: 1988
Hospital: Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vt
Group Practice: Radiation Oncology
General Surgery, Surgical Oncology
Heading Off Cervical Cancer
By Diana Somerville
Routine screening has made this disease almost entirely preventable, but the virus that causes it still runs rampant. Simple precautions, a healthy diet, and regular checkups can keep it under control.
Abnormal Pap results. Those three words can instill fear in the bravest and most health-savvy woman. The mind goes immediately to cervical cancer, a disease that, according to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, claims the lives of 3,900 women in the US each year.
But in fact, abnormal results are far from a death knell. Some mild abnormalities stem from inflammation or irritation caused by a mild yeast or bacterial infection. However, the abnormal results can also signal cervical dysplasia, abnormally shaped cells in the cervix that can be a precursor to cervical cancer. Detected early, cervical dysplasia is entirely treatable, but of course it’s better not to develop the condition in the first place.
Most cases of cervical dysplasia result from an HPV infection. While transmissible by any skin-to-skin contact, HPV, the human papilloma virus, is so commonly transmitted by sexual activity that it’s considered a virtual marker for having had unprotected sex. Generally, the immune system can handle HPV, which is often symptomless, and outbreaks of the virus come and go like an unremarkable cold. But when the virus persists or comes from a high-risk strain, it can cause cervical dysplasia. For that reason alone, it’s important to understand HPV and to learn how to prevent it and—if you already have it—how to treat it.
Doctors and researchers have isolated more than 100 strains of HPV. Some cause the benign but annoying warts that pop up unexpectedly on your hands or feet, but at least 30 strains can infect the genital area, silently lurking in the skin and mucous membranes for months or even years. HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, which means you can unwittingly infect your partner—or vice versa.
Once you’re sexually active, your health routine should include a pelvic exam and Pap test, in which cells are gently scraped from the uterus and cervix and smeared on a slide that’s examined under a microscope. The widespread use of the Pap test or Pap smear, developed by George Papanicolaou, MD, more than 60 years ago, has reduced cervical cancer deaths by more than 70 percent in the US.
“A Pap smear is a true screening test,” says Bethany Hayes, MD, OB/GYN. “It’s relatively noninvasive, relatively inexpensive, and picks up abnormalities early enough to do something about them.” Hayes is the medical director of True North Health Center, an integrated holistic healthcare center in Falmouth, Maine.
Not all abnormal Pap results call for great concern, but they do indicate a need for follow-up with a healthcare provider to determine the cause of the abnormal results. The Pap itself is not diagnostic, stresses Tori Hudson, ND, professor of gynecology at the National College of Naturopathic Medic...
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