Although a Pap smear is no one’s idea of a good time, women who make it part of their annual routine can keep themselves healthier longer, and cervical cancer can be detected before it spreads.
After not having a well woman exam for 10 years, Anita Ewing made an appointment with May S. Thomassee, MD, gynecologist and minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon with Lourdes Physician Group.
Ewing is grateful she did, as that appointment and screening with a Pap smear led to the discovery of cervical cancer before it spread to other parts of her body.
Putting Off Her Own Health
Ewing says she hadn’t kept up with annual gynecological exams for the same reasons many women may not: work and life getting in the way, not having time off for appointments, and overall feeling good and healthy with no signs or symptoms.
“I never had any problems, so I never thought anything was wrong,” Ewing says. “It’s nothing you can feel, so I just never thought I needed to have a yearly exam. But I came to find out that I really did.”
She decided to make and keep the initial appointment with Dr. Thomassee after some bleeding as well as realizing just how long it had been since her last well woman exam.
Getting Her Results
Ewing’s Pap smear was abnormal, so Dr. Thomassee called her back for a biopsy, which found cancerous cells. Further CT scans and another biopsy determined the next steps, and although the cancer was at an aggressive stage, thankfully it had not spread beyond Ewing’s cervix.
“Cancer is a very, very scary word,” Ewing says. “A lot was going through my mind. I was about to turn 50 and knew I had a long life still to live.”
Ewing shared the news of her diagnosis with her fiancé, three adult sons and her parents, assuring them all that she was in good hands with Dr. Thomassee. The next step in Ewing’s care will be a hysterotomy to ensure the cancer does not return or spread.
Advice for Other Women
“Just get checked,” Ewing says. “Have that yearly exam. It doesn’t hurt, and it could save your life.”
Dr. Thomassee echoes that advice and encourages all women to establish and maintain a good relationship with a provider who performs Pap smears. She also stresses the importance of an annual well woman exam.
“A lot of patients I see have already had their babies and stop going to their gynecologist,” Dr. Thomassee says. “But women’s health is paramount, and we need to take care of ourselves.”