The Power of the Pap Test: Read Tori's Story
“Gardisil is perhaps the single most important development we have in the fight towards treating and preventing cervical cancer.” –Antonio Sison, MD, FACOG
According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 11,150 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States in 2007.
Thanks to the availability of the Pap test and women’s willingness to have regular screenings, these rates continue to decline.
Tori Pittman, a resident of Hamilton Square, believes in the importance of preventative medicine. A self-described “faithful, once-a-year, Pap test person,” Tori went for her yearly checkup. She was 41 at the time and was quite surprised to learn the results: she had HPV and a tumor.
Tori is now a healthy 44-year-old mother and grandmother whose story can save your life.
Following her initial testing, Tori had a colonoscopy, then a laser cone biopsy, and when there were still cancer cells present, her physician recommended a radical hysterectomy.
During the procedure, she had 16 lymph nodes removed and fortunately only one was cancerous. Tori was a stage 1a — the earliest stage of cancer. Because of the lymph node involvement, Tori had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, and she chose to come to CINJ Hamilton for her treatment, where she saw Dr. Michael McKenna. Tori had five and one half weeks of daily radiation therapy and weekly chemotherapy.
Following this, she had brachytherapy, in which sealed radioactive material was placed close to her operative site. After three brachytherapy sessions, Tori received the good news: she was now free of cancer.
Tori continues to have regular Pap tests and CT scans. Of the care she received at CINJ Hamilton, she says, “I’ve never dealt with people who are more amazing, caring and compassionate.”
“Have a Pap test done regularly – it can save your life. It saved mine.”
Cervical Cancer and the Pap Test
Cervical cancer forms in the tissues of the cervix, is typically slow-growing and may not have symptoms. This is why the Pap test is so important: it can detect abnormal cell changes. First introduced in the 1950s, the Pap test is a procedure done during a pelvic exam in which cells are scraped from the cervix and viewed under a microscope. The test looks for changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer. If cancer does occur, as in the case of Tori Pittman, the Pap test can find it early when it is easier to treat.
HPV Can Lead to Cervical Cancer
“HPV (human papilloma virus) is spread through sexual contact, causes no obvious symptoms and can cause cervical cancer,” explains Michael McKenna, MD, board certified radiation oncologist at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey Hamilton.
“While most HPV infections go away on their own without causing changes to the cervix, sometimes the virus causes cell changes, and in some instances, these changes may lead to cancer. The best way to prevent HPV from developing into cancer or to catch any irregularities in the cells is to have regular Pap tests and to be tested for HPV.”
Gardasil: The First Vaccine That Targets HPV
Gardasil™ is an FDA-approved vaccine that prevents infection by the two types of the human papillomavirus (HPV Types 16 and 18) that are responsible for up to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases worldwide, as well as two other HPV types (HPV Types 6 and 11) that cause benign genital warts.
Gardasil is given through a series of three injections into muscle tissue over a six-month period and is recommended for young girls and women aged 9 through 26. Research and development continues as the progress of this important vaccine is tracked.
“Gardisil is perhaps the single most important development we have in the fight towards treating and preventing cervical cancer.”
Get your Pap test. How often depends on age, medical and family history so talk to your physician. If you need a gynecologist, call 609.584.5900 or visit rwjobgyn.org.