Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

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By Nurse Diane

I was due later that week for an appointment with the gynecologist when early one morning I received a call from his office: I had been rescheduled for early that morning at 9:30am. I had just packed everyone off to work and school and it was around 8:45 already. The trip usually took about 35 minutes so I didn't have any time to spare. As most women do, I'm sure, I like to take a little extra effort over hygiene when making such visits, but this time I wasn't going to be able to make the full effort. So I rushed upstairs, threw off my dressing gown, wet the washcloth and gave myself a wash in "that area" in front of the sink, taking extra care to make sure that I was presentable. I threw the washcloth in the clothes basket, donned some clothes, hopped in the car and raced to my appointment. I was in the waiting room only a few minutes when he called me in. Knowing the procedure, as I'm sure all women do, I hopped up on the table, looked over at the other side of the room and pretended I was in Hawaii or some other place a million miles away from here. I was surprised when he said: "My...we have taken a little extra effort this morning, haven't we?" but I didn't respond. The appointment over, I heaved a sigh of relief and went home. The rest of the day went as normal, some shopping, cleaning and the evening meal, etc. At 8:30 that evening my 14 year old daughter was getting ready for a school dance, when she called down from the bathroom, "Mom, where's my washcloth?"I called back for her to get another from the cabinet. She called back, "No, I need that one that was here by the sink. It had all my glitter and sparkles in it."
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Going to the gynecologist can be a very embarrassing procedure for some, however it is a very necessary examination used to detect any possibility of cancer.  Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman's reproductive organs.  Five main types of cancer affect a woman's reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. In 2008, 83,662 women in the United States were diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, and 27,813 women died from it. . When gynecologic cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.

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There is no way to know for sure if you will get a gynecologic cancer. That's why it is important to pay attention to your body and know what is normal for you, so you can recognize the warning signs or symptoms of gynecologic cancer.
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If you have vaginal bleeding that is unusual for you, talk to a doctor right away. You should also see a doctor if you have any other warning signs that last for two weeks or longer and are not normal for you. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor.

Some warning signs to look for include:
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge;
  • Pelvic pain or pressure;
  • Abdominal or back pain;
  • Bloating;
  • Change in bathroom habits;
  • Burning or itching of the vulva; and or
  • Changes in color of the vulva or rash sores or warts.


Prevention:
  • Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human pusillanimous (HPV) a very common sexually transmitted infection. Vaccines protect against the HPV types that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulva cancers. It is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls. (Note: The vaccine can be given to girls beginning at age 9.) It also can be given to females who are 13–26 who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Ideally, girls should get three doses of this vaccine before their first sexual contact.
  • Annual PAP smears should also be performed by the age of 30, sometimes even younger if there is a history of gynecological cancers in the family.
  • If you have any questions about the screenings or your possibility of risk, check with your doctor.

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September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, and you are encouraged to schedule a checkup with your gynecologist, or let your wife, mother, aunts, girlfriends, any female in your life know that their health is very important and prevention and early detection is necessary for a long healthy life.   For more information about gynecological cancers, visit this site:  http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/index.htm

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