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Health Report: Fairbanks Oncologist offers advice for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 4:39 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and a Fairbanks Oncologist has offered advice on signs to look out for and how to prevent it.

According to Dr. Jacqueline Cox, a Medical Oncologist with Fairbanks Cancer Care Physicians, while there are not many warning signs, there are ways to test for and prevent cervical cancer.

“Probably the only real warning sign that women will notice, or might notice with cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding,” Dr. Cox explained. “That would be bleeding that might happen mid-cycle, or it might happen post-coital. Or abnormal discharge, that could be a warning sign for cervical cancer.”

Dr. Cox continued, “Cervical cancer has two phases in terms of screening or treatment, and the first phase is actually vaccination. We know that the majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by the HPV virus, or the Human Papillomavirus. So really, vaccinating adolescents before they’re exposed to HPV would be ideal to prevent the infection in the first place. If we can prevent the infection, then we prevent persistent infection which can cause precancerous lesions, which then can lead to cervical cancer.”

Another preventative method is to screen for the cancer, which based on previous tests, can take place every three to five years.

“There is what’s called a pap test,” Dr. Cox elaborated, “which is basically a female exam, and a brushing is done of the cervical cells. Then our colleagues in pathology look at those cervical cells under a microscope and they sort of let us know if there’s any abnormalities that might lead to a little bit further testing to see if there are really any precancerous cells. If you catch it that early, there is great treatment to prevent it from progressing into cervical cancer.”

If caught early, there are various ways to treat cervical cancer according to Dr. Cox. “There are actually very good treatments for cervical cancer in terms of chemotherapy and radiation. For some it is surgery; for others, like I said it would be chemotherapy and radiation. Then of course if it’s more advanced, there might be even more treatments related to cervical cancer.”

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