January is Cervical Health Awareness Month but women should look into being screened for cervical cancer at least once a year. Taking the time to screen for cervical cancer may be a daunting task, but one exam could save your life.
According to the NCCC, over 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and it’s the fourth most common type of cancer for women worldwide. Black women are more likely to receive a diagnosis, but early detection through screenings could make all the difference.
Dr. Jacqueline Walters stopped by theGrio to advise women on how to speak with their doctors about cervical cancer, why screening is imperative, and the type of doctor Black women should seek.
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“You need to see your doctor annually,” stressed Dr. Walters, also known as Dr. Jackie, from the hit Bravo show, “Married to Medicine.”
Dr. Jackie has been a practicing OBGYN for over 20 years and is a two-time breast cancer survivor.
Cervical cancer begins in the cell lining of the cervix and can start when cells grow out of control. Symptoms can range from pain during intercourse to pelvic pain, which is why Dr. Jackie says early detection through screening matters.
She says step one to prevention is finding a good doctor.
“Have a doctor that you’re comfortable talking to,” she said. “You need to be able to go in and I always talk to my patients and tell them, treat me like a good girlfriend, be open, be honest, be very transparent, realize that you’re not being judged, and then go in and be your own best advocate.”
She continued, “Go in asking for those age-appropriate comprehensive tests. So if you’re over 30, for example, you go in and ask for a Pap plus co-testing, which is a Pap smear and an HPV test.”
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A Pap smear test allows doctors to find abnormal cells while the HPV tests look for HPV strains that are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
“Be open and honest with your doctor there is nothing we have not heard before,” she added.
Dr. Jackie also insists you share the information. “This is something you should be asking your girlfriend, ‘hey have you gone to your doctor this month’”?
The doctor to the stars also urges women to have a primary care physician. She says it is essential to “pick a doctor you are culturally comfortable with,” especially Black women.
“I think that is a level of comfort, you know, regardless of the race. You need to be culturally comfortable with your doctor. And, you know, we have a different culture,” she added. “So even if your doctor is not an African-American doctor, you should be able to share with her things and not feel like you’re being judged based on the fact that there’s a cultural difference.”
If you’re looking to schedule your first or next screening, visit Dr. Jackie and the Hologic team here.
Watch Dr. Jackie and the full video for more information.
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