WINSTON COUNTY - The fall months usher in shades of teal and pink to help symbolize and bring awareness to cancers that affect predominately women - breast, cervical, uterine and ovarian. Thankfully, early detection options are in place for the vast majority of these cancers, making the chance for a cure higher, something physicians at Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville want local women to know.
Lakeland Family Practice’s Dr. Amy Traylor is building relationships with her female patients in many ways, including having conversations regarding the need to not be afraid to be screened for breast and cervical cancers. She performs pap smears - the screening test for cervical cancer - making it easier on local women to have the test done without having to see a specialist. Also, Lakeland Community Hospital offers mammography, allowing local women to stay close to home for screenings.
“If we catch it early with our screenings, we can keep somebody from experiencing some of the surgeries and long-term effects of cancer,” Traylor said.
Statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health show that these cancers are killers locally. Over the last two years, 20 women in Winston and Marion counties have lost their lives to breast cancer. Five women have died from cervical or uterine cancer and two women have died from ovarian cancer which, unfortunately, does not currently have a screening test that can typically catch it at an early stage.
Traylor believes that it is important for a woman to feel comfortable enough to tell her medical provider if she notices any changes in her body. Any pain, lumps, bumps or changes in a woman’s breasts need to be brought up to her doctor as soon as possible. Also, any heavy menstrual bleeding that is different from a woman’s regular menstrual cycle needs to be discussed with a doctor right away.
“If you've already gone through menopause and then you're bleeding, that's something we should absolutely know,” Traylor said. “I see where that’s something people are hesitant to talk about and bring up, but bleeding after menopause is never normal.”
One thing that can help reduce the chances of cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine, which is available to both girls and boys, Traylor noted. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is an infection that commonly causes skin or mucus membrane growths (warts), according to the Mayo Clinic. There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, and most do not lead to cancer. but some types of genital HPV can cause cervical, anal, vaginal, penile and vulvular cancer, as well as cancer of the back of the throat. That is why both girls and boys beginning at age 11 are encouraged to get the vaccine.
“We want to make sure that you get it before you’re exposed to any virus. Also, they’ve tested it and the immune system seems to work a little bit better with the vaccine at a younger age,” Traylor said. Traylor added that for children who get the HPV vaccine prior to age 15, it is a two-dose regimen. After age 15, it is a three-dose regimen, which is another reason to get the shot at a younger age.
Traylor wants local women not to be afraid to talk to their doctors, nor to come forward if they are having a problem with their health and are afraid it might be cancer.
“We’re always learning new things about cancer. They have smaller and smaller surgeries, biopsies and treatments every day,” Traylor assured.
Women are recommended to begin having pap smears at 21 and to have their first mammogram by 50 or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer. For more information or to make an appointment, call Lakeland Family Practice at (205) 485-7227.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.