Check Up 13

Welcome to Check Up 13, in partnership with Ascension St. Vincent

WTHR and co-anchor and health reporter Anne Marie Tiernon have partnered with Ascension St. Vincent, part of Ascension, one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., on an initiative called Check Up 13. The goal of Check Up 13 is to educate and encourage Indiana residents to take a proactive role in their own health. Check Up 13 includes news stories that will air on the 13th of every month during WTHR's Health Beat segment. The monthly program will highlight providers and patient success stories at Ascension St. Vincent and focus on the health topic screening, event or promotion for that month.

Check Up 13: Catching Cervical Cancer Early, When It’s Most Curable

January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Approximately 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The good news: cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer, thanks to increased screening with the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops, and it can detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when the disease is most curable.

There are usually no symptoms associated with cervical cancer, but thanks largely to the increased use of the Pap test, the cervical cancer death rate has declined by more than 50 percent over the last 40 years.

Understanding the risk factors and detection methods for cervical cancer are crucial to early detection.

Here are 4 truths about cervical cancer from the American Cancer Society:

  1. There are usually no symptoms: Left undetected, cervical cancer was once a major cause of death for American women – especially because there are usually no symptoms. The best way to find cervical cancer early is to have a regular screening with a Pap test. Being alert to any signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can also help avoid unnecessary delays in diagnosis.
  2. Several risk factors increase the risk of developing cervical cancer: The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of more than 150 viruses. Other risk factors include: smoking, having a weakened immune system, being overweight, having a family history of cervical cancer.
  3. Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife: Most cases are found in women younger than 50 but it rarely develops in women younger than 20. Often, older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. More than 15 percent of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65.
  4. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment: Today, a test to detect HPV is often used as a follow-up when abnormalities are detected on a Pap smear. The same test can also be used as a screening method on its own. In one recent study, this test to detect HPV was shown to be nearly twice as effective as the Pap test in detecting early cervical cancer. Anti-cancer vaccines have been found effective in preventing the two strains of HPV most frequently found in cervical cancer. Your primary doctor or gynecologist often can do the tests needed to diagnose pre-cancers and cancers and may also be able to treat pre-cancer.

To qualify for this month’s screening, women must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be 21-years-old or older
  • Must not have had a pap smear within the last year
  • Must not have had a partial or full hysterectomy

Note:

  • If a woman is between the ages of 21 and 29, she will receive a pap test only.
  • If a woman is between ages 30-65, she will receive a pap test and an HPV test.
  • If a woman is older than 65, she does not need the screening.