Cervical cancer awareness month

According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of death for women residing in the United States. Thankfully, this statistic has changed for the better due to the human papillomavirus vaccination and routine cervical cancer screenings via a Pap test. This fact no doubt provides women with reassurance knowing that these measures are the best way to help prevent cervical cancer. However, there is no room for complacency when it comes to women’s health. Avoiding or delaying regularly scheduled Pap tests or lack of following-up with results and recommendations is tantamount to rolling the dice and increasing risk. Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic helps decrease that risk by providing safe, quality preventive health care.

Most cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Key facts from the World Health Organization point to over 100 types of HPV with 14 high-risk types that cause cancer. Surprisingly, only 2 types of HPV (types 16 & 18) cause 70% of cervical cancer. HPV is a viral infection of the reproductive tract and is extremely common among sexually active individuals. HPV generally has no symptoms and for most it will go away on its own. If HPV becomes chronic, it can cause changes in the cervix which over time may cause cancer. Preventing HPV that causes the majority of cervical cancer is as easy as getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccination is safe, effective, and recommended prior to the start of sexual activity at age 11 or 12. HPV vaccinations are available at WAHC in the immunizations section. This is a walk-in clinic and operates on a first come/first served basis. For more information about the specifics of the HPV vaccine visit the CDC website or speak with your primary care manager. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hpv/hcp/recommendations.html

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women begin getting a Pap test at 21 years of age. Women 21-29 years old should get a Pap test every 3 years as long as the result is normal. Women 30-65 years old should get a Pap test in conjunction with an HPV test every 5 years provided the test results are normal. Women can call the appointment line at (06371)9464 5762 or DSN 590 5762 to schedule a well woman exam where a Pap test will be completed. Please do not use the TriCare On-Line portal to schedule these appointments as they require 40-minutes of time and that option is not available via TOL.

The staff at WAHC are caring professionals who are respectfully committed to patients’ comfort and privacy. During a well woman exam, the PCM and a nurse will be present in the room. The test involves a pelvic exam and a sample of cervical cells and tissue. The exam is fairly quick and is relatively painless with only mild discomfort, if any. The lab specimens are sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for processing and can take up to 3 weeks for the results to be completed. The clinic will contact patients with the results of the Pap test. Knowing the results of a Pap test and adhering to the recommendations for follow-up care are crucial to receive the best possible outcome and health benefit. Please do not rely on the old adage no news is good news; patients who have not received a lab result within 4 weeks should contact the clinic to inquire.

Sometimes it is necessary to receive gynecologic care on the German economy which can present challenges with WAHC receiving medical notes and lab reports. Women who receive a Pap test at a non-military installation in Germany, should request a copy of the cytology report from the German provider. The cytology report (not the provider’s notes) contains the lab results from the Pap test and provides the PCM with important information about the status of the results and follow-up recommendations. Active duty and their family members should bring a copy of the cytology report to the TriCare office to be translated from German to English and uploaded into the patients’ electronic medical record. Patients’ active participation in their health care is an invaluable asset for the Wiesbaden health care team.

For more information about preventive health services available at WAHC, please feel free to contact Stacey Hodges, RN at (06371)9464 1337 or DSN 590-1337.