Healthwatch: Getting Regular Exams

Some forms of cancer are treatable, and sometimes preventable, when abnormalities are caught in the early stages.

Dr. Greg Lyman of the East Mississippi OB-GYN Clinic in Meridian points to cervical cancer as a prime example.

And the way potential problems are discovered, and beaten, is through regular pelvic exams.

"We have lowered the rate some 70-percent over the years beginning in the 1940s, when the pap smear first became available," said Dr. Lyman.

"And through good education and information to the public, we have helped to lower that, although it still remains a very serious cancer."

There are 15,000 cases diagnosed each year and it's the third most common type of cancer among women.

"I think we still have a large number of women that don't follow up with annual pap smears. We really think that this can be an almost preventable type cancer if it were 100% followed," Lyman said.

And Dr. Lyman also points out that an abnormality found during the exam does not automatically mean cancer.

"We have taught so much that this is a screening for cervical cancer that many women are afraid when they have an abnormal pap smear that it means they have cancer, which is not the case," said Lyman. "In fact, very infrequently, when people are having regular pap smears do we find overt cervical cancer on the pap smear."

Lyman stresses that patients should not be fearful of the exam, but rather of what could be missed if it's not done.


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