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cervical health awareness

Stressing the Importance of Cervical Health Awareness

Is Pain with Penetration Preventing you from getting a Pap test?

January is a great time to make resolutions, fresh starts, and to start committing to self-care! It is also Cervical Health Awareness Month. Today we chat about the Pap test. If you are an adult with female anatomy living in the United States, chances are you have heard the term “Pap test” or “Pap smear.” But why they are important and what can you do if you can’t tolerate a gynecological exam with a speculum?

I can’t stand having a speculum placed in my vagina. What can I do?

Pelvic floor issues such as vaginismus, vulvodynia, and vulvar vestibulitis can make it hard to have anything inserted into the vagina. Be it a penis, tampon, or a speculum, commonly reported symptoms include intense burning and stinging, sharp pain, a feeling that you “will tear,” or like you are “hitting a wall.” These are all conditions that are treatable at Femina Physical Therapy. Our therapy along with your healthcare team can help restore your ability to take care of your reproductive health as well as your sexual health and pleasure.

First off, what is the cervix and why do we have to test it?

The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus. It is about two inches long, and tube shaped. It widens to allow babies to be born and allows the passage of things like menstrual blood and semen in and out of the uterus. It is made of two different types of cells that are vulnerable to changes that can make them pre-cancerous or cancerous, with the potential to develop into cervical cancer. The Pap test helps detect these changes early on.

What is a Pap test?

The Pap test detects if there are cells on the cervix that are not normal so that your healthcare team can monitor and prevent the development of cervical cancer.

When someone has a Pap test, they are positioned on an exam table and a device called a speculum is gently inserted to open the vagina. The speculum allows the healthcare provider to view the cervix and upper vagina. Once the provider can see the cervix, a medical brush or spatula is used to “sweep” across the mouth of the cervix and inside the tubular portion, collecting microscopic cells. These cells are then sent to a lab where they are prepped and evaluated under a microscope.

What is an Abnormal Pap?

If the lab determines that the cervical cells collected with the Pap test are abnormal or precancerous, the test results will often be called an “abnormal pap.” I want to underscore that having an abnormal pap does not mean you will get cervical cancer!

There are, of course, lots of medical names your healthcare provider may use to describe an abnormal pap, including:

  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Abnormal cell changes
  • Precancerous cells changes
  • CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia)
  • SIL (squamous intraepithelial lesions)
  • “Warts” on the cervix

All of these terms mean similar things—simply that some abnormalities were found. Most of the time, these cell changes are due to HPV, or the human papillomavirus. Again, having an abnormal pap does not mean you will get cervical cancer!

An abnormal pap is simply a flag for your healthcare provider – and you- to schedule screenings to see if the cells continue to change. If cells do keep changing your healthcare provider may decide to do treatment that prevents further cell changes that could become cancerous over time if left unchecked.

Who should get a Pap test?

According to the US Office of Women’s health, most women ages 21 to 65 should get Pap tests as part of routine health care. Even if you are not currently sexually active, you should still have a Pap test.

How often should I get a Pap test?

Most women can follow these guidelines:

  • If you are between ages 21 and 29, you should get a Pap test every 3 years.
  • If you are between ages 30 and 64, you should get a Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) test together every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.
  • If you are 65 or older, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.

Some women may need more frequent Pap tests. You should talk to your doctor about getting a Pap test more often if:

  • You have a weakened immune system because of organ transplant, chemotherapy, or steroid use.
  • Your mother was exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant.
  • You have had treatment for abnormal Pap results or cervical cancer in the past.
  • You are HIV-positive.

Are you worried about paying for a Pap test?

The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the United States.

Search for free and low-cost screenings in your state, tribe, or territory.

Now that you know more about cervical health awareness, perhaps it's time to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists!

 

Resources:

US Office of Women’s Health

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s 10 Things you should know about HPV and cervical cancer 

 

More Great Products We Love

Beating Endo by Iris Kerin Orbuch, MD and Amy Stein, DPT

From two of the world’s leading experts in endometriosis comes an essential, first-of-its kind book that unwraps the mystery of the disease and gives women the tools they need to reclaim their lives from it. 

Approximately one out of every 10 women has endometriosis, an inflammatory disease that causes chronic pain, limits life’s activities, and may lead to infertility. Despite the disease’s  prevalence, the average woman may suffer for a decade or more before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Once she does, she’s often given little more than a prescription for pain killers and a referral for the wrong kind of surgery. Beating Endo arms women with what has long been missing—even within the medical community—namely, cutting-edge knowledge of how the disease works and what the endo sufferer can do to take charge of her fight against it.

Leading gynecologist and endometriosis specialist Dr. Iris Kerin Orbuch and world-renowned pelvic pain specialist and physical therapist Dr. Amy Stein have long partnered with each other and with other healthcare practitioners to address the disease’s host of co-existing conditions—which can include pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, gastrointestinal ailments, painful bladder syndrome, central nervous system sensitization—through a whole-mind/whole-body approach.

Now, Beating Endo formalizes the multimodal program they developed, offering readers an anti-inflammatory lifestyle protocol that incorporates physical therapy, nutrition, mindfulness, and environment to systematically addresses each of the disease’s co-conditions on an ongoing basis up to and following excision surgery. This is the program that has achieved successful outcomes for their patients; it is the program that works to restore health, vitality, and quality of life to women with endo.

No more “misdiagnosis roulette” and no more limits on women’s lives: Beating Endo puts the tools of renewed health in the hands of those whose health is at risk.

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

Read more: Testimonial by Jamie M.

Testimonial by S.S., age 54

Heather is the best! I saw her today for terrible hip/groin pain. I was so impressed with the safety measures in place and felt completely safe . Thanks for the healing hands.

S.S., age 54

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by Jackie W.

I was in multiple car accidents a decade ago, and I have been to many physical therapists through the years without success. They found the root of my lower back pain problems and after nearly a decade of barely being able to walk I finally can again without pain. They are also the best pelvic floor pts and the only ones who found the connection between my pelvic floor and lower back problems. If you need help with physical pain, they are your answer.

-- Jackie W., 1/19/17 via Yelp!

Testimonial by M.M.

My husband and I were married for 5 years and unable to have intercourse, but I never knew why. After numerous awful experiences at doctor’s offices (where many doctors told me I “just needed to relax”), a surgery that didn’t fix the problem, and a year of owning dilators that didn’t get me anywhere, someone finally referred me to Heather for Physical Therapy. I finally had answers and information from someone who knew exactly what I was dealing with!

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

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