How much do you know about PCOS and Gynecological Cancers?
September is a big awareness month for people with female reproductive systems. This month we spread education around Gynecologic Cancer and Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Gynecological cancers include cancers of the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, and vagina. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States, approximately 71,500 people are diagnosed with gynecological cancers. Every five minutes, someone will be diagnosed with one of five gyn cancers and over 33,000 will die from a gynecologic cancer this year.
What can you do to prevent these cancers?
1: Regular Pap Smears
Infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV) is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. Some vaginal cancers can be related to HPV infections. If you have a cervix and do not regular tests to detect HPV or abnormal cells, you are at increased risk of cervical cancer.
2: Get Vaccinated Early
The HPV vaccine is a safe and well-studied cancer prevention vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers such as anal cancer and head/ neck/throat cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended for all children, ideally at ages 11 and 12. All people are recommended to get the HPV vaccine between 9 and 26 years of age but can choose to get the HPV Vaccine up until age 45. Vaccination before becoming sexually active can prevent most cervical precancer.
2: Establish a Primary Care Provider (PCP)
In addition to cervical cancer, other gynecological cancer symptoms can also be detected through exams, and tests performed by your primary care provider. Talking through your symptoms is the first step. If anything seems abnormal, your primary care provider can refer you to an OBGYN or other specialist.
“Every 5 minutes, someone will be diagnosed with gynecological cancer. Lack of awareness is often the biggest barrier, and early detection leads to better outcomes,” said Lisa Russell, Chief Clinical Officer. “Everyone should be discussing their reproductive health with their primary care provider. If you have a family history of gynecological cancer, especially ovarian and uterine, it’s important to talk to your PCP or OBGYN about genetic testing for inheritable cancers.”
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
The aim of PCOS Awareness Month is to help improve the lives of those affected by PCOS and to help them to overcome their symptoms as well as prevent and reduce their risks for life-threatening related conditions. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a problem with hormones that happens during the reproductive years. If you have PCOS, you may have too much of a hormone called androgen in your body. This can cause issues with menstruation, infertility, weight gain, unusual hair growth, acne, and eventually lead to more serious health complications.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Early diagnosis and treatment may lower the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. PCOS affects up to almost 27 percent of adults with female reproductive systems. PCOS is also known to be a potential risk factor for some gynecological cancers. There are treatments available for PCOS, including medication and diet/lifestyle adjustments. Visiting your primary care provider and being honest about any symptoms can help detect the condition early.
When should you see a provider about PCOS?
1: You’ve missed periods, and you’re not pregnant.
2: You have symptoms of PCOS, such as hair growth on your face and body.
3: You’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months but haven’t been successful.
4: You have symptoms of diabetes, such as excess thirst or hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss.
“PCOS is a complex disorder that impacts everyone differently. There are several different treatment options that can help manage symptoms and prevent further complications,” said Russell. “Your PCP can help with PCOS and identify any related complications by checking your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and screening for disorders like depression, and anxiety.”
Heartland Community Health Center offers primary care, HPV vaccinations, and gynecological services such as pap smears. Contact us at 785.841.7297 for more information.