Mercy Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Teresa Diaz-Montes Discusses New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines
Cervical cancer is a curable disease, but the key is catching it early. The most common screening tool is a Pap test.
There are new recommendations for when and how often you should get that test and new guidelines for an additional Pap screening test.
Tammy Walling was diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer last October. Her treatment is going well. She has completed chemotherapy and is almost finished with radiation, but it has been a struggle, one that Walling feels she could have avoided.
"One of the reasons my cancer was more advanced than it needed to be was I didn't have a pap smear until I had symptoms, so it made me realize that screening is critical because if I had had it much sooner, they would have caught it much earlier and I would probably not have the higher stage that I do now," Walling said.
Regular cervical cancer screening is key and after much study, the recommendations have changed. Now experts say women should get their first Pap test at age 21, regardless of sexual activity. If the test is normal, they can wait three more years for the next pap test up to age 65.
"It is a treatable, curable cancer if it's diagnosed in time," said Dr. Teresa Diaz-Montes, M.D., MPH, FACOG, Associate Director of The Lya Segall Ovarian Cancer Institute and noted expert and gynecologic oncologist with The Gynecologic Oncology Center at Mercy.
According to Dr. Diaz-Montes, most cervical cancers are HPV-related, so experts now recommend what's called co-testing for women age 30 and up.
"Co-testing is where we do cytology and we also do HPV testing at the same time, and that gives us additional information because if both tests are negative, the chances of this patient having a higher risk of cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer is lower," Dr. Diaz-Montes said.
Walling said there's no reason not to do the screening and that "I don't have the time" is not an excuse.
"I think you should make the time. I wish I had made the time. As I said, mine is a very advanced stage 2 cancer when it could have been caught at stage one with a Pap smear," Walling said.
View Dr. Diaz-Montes’ interview regarding cervical cancer screenings and Pap smears.
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.
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