At Honu Women’s Health, we understand that choosing a medical provider is an extremely important decision and we recognize that each woman and her health history are unique. Our board-certified OB/GYN, Dr. Aya Sultan, takes time to care for patients as individuals and to deliver specialized care that meets each patient’s needs. This care starts with regular well-woman examinations, which check for general health and provide an opportunity to screen for early signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. Through these routine visits, Dr. Sultan provides preventive care measures to maintain good health and can recommend any necessary procedure options fitting your situation.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the cervix, which is located at the lower part of the uterus. It is caused when healthy cells mutate and grow or multiply out of control, thereby creating an abnormal mass known as a tumor.
There may not be any signs and symptoms of early-stage cervical cancer, which is why regular well-woman visits, cervical cancer screenings (like the pap smear), and early detection are so important.
Symptoms of late-stage cervical cancer may include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
When detected early, cervical cancer has a high survival rate. This is why it is extremely important to be closely and regularly monitored for signs and symptoms of cervical cancer under the care of a board-certified OB/GYN. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment to further investigate. Even if the cause is not cervical cancer, most symptoms can be alleviated by taking the proper steps towards symptom control, allowing you to eliminate discomfort and return to your best health.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
A common sexually transmitted infection known as HPV, human papillomavirus, plays a role in the development of almost all cases of cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and oftentimes clears up on its own. In some cases, however, it can lead to cancer.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Many sexual partners, early sexual activity, or unprotected sex
- A weakened immune system, such as with chronic disease, or viruses like HIV
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug that was previously prescribed to women to prevent miscarriages.
It is important to be open and honest with your OB/GYN about your health and sexual history so that she can provide the best care possible. If you feel you may be at risk or unsure, then it is best to schedule an appointment where we can assess and review with you your concerns.
Find Your Inner Health and Outer Beauty™
What to Expect at Your Appointment
At your well-woman visit, Dr. Sultan will gather your health history to determine a baseline for your health and care needs. During this thorough conversation, Dr. Sultan will discuss your symptoms and lifestyle and will help provide a care plan to allow you to maintain optimal health. She will also perform standard screenings and recommendations to allow for the early detection of any health issues.
These screenings and recommendations include:
- Pap Test - A screening test that can help prevent cervical cancer and aid in early detection. Cells are collected from your cervix by using a swab, and those cells are analyzed for abnormal changes and early signs of cancer. It is recommended for women ages 21-65.
- Pelvic Exam - During this exam, Dr. Sultan will look at your vulva and vagina, as well as your cervix, by using a speculum. She will also check your internal organs by using a gloved hand and gently pushing on your abdomen.
- HPV Test - An HPV test might be recommended if you are 25 or older or if your pap test was abnormal. This test looks for the presence of HPV, which can cause cell changes.
- HPV Vaccine - This vaccine is recommended for women between the ages of 27 and 45 years old, who have not previously been vaccinated. This vaccine helps protect against several strains of both low-risk and high-risk HPV, which can cause both genital warts and cancer. If you are at risk and have not been vaccinated, it is important to discuss with Dr. Sultan the possible benefits of receiving a vaccination.
Follow-Up and Additional Care
If any abnormalities appear at your examination that may be indicative of cervical cancer, Honu Women’s Health offers in-office and minimally invasive procedures for further examination and management, as needed.
These treatments include:
- Colposcopy - This procedure examines the cervix, vagina, and vulva for conditions including genital warts, inflammation of the cervix, precancerous, and cancer changes in the tissue.
- Cervical Biopsies - This procedure removes a tissue sample from the cervix, which is then tested for abnormal or precancerous conditions.
- LEEP - Also called Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure, this can aid in the detection and treatment of cervical cancer by removing abnormal cells with a small electrical wire loop.
Take Control of Your Health
Depending on the results of your well-woman examination, you will be provided with detailed follow-up plans if necessary to help care for individual needs. We believe in caring for women’s total body health and look forward to developing the right care plan for you.
Contact us today to continue your journey and lead a happy, healthy life.