January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
The American Cancer Society estimates that doctors will diagnose about 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in 2018.
"Cervical cancer just never crossed my mind," said Jennifer Gibson.
Gibson went in for her most recent pap smear in October, three years after her last visit.
She didn't think much of the routine procedure until her doctor found a problem.
"It came back that it was abnormal and it was a level three dysplasia," said Gibson.
The results led her to a specialist who determined that surgery would be the next step to remove the abnormal cells.
"They said that it could be cervical cancer," said Gibson. "When you hear cancer,you're thinking, me? Of all people?"
Dr. Michelle Manning is an OB-GYN at Waco Center for Women's Health with Providence Healthcare Network.
Manning said a pap smear can find changes in the cervix, which help to detect the disease in its early stages when it's most curable.
"When you go to your yearly visit and you get your pap smear on a schedule that's recommended by your physician, you are actually allowing them to find a problem before it becomes cancer," said Manning.
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for women, but the rate has dropped over the years due to this test.
"That's why the pap smear was such an innovation for medicine because we could catch something, with no symptoms, prior to becoming cancer," said Manning.
Gibson was one of the lucky ones who caught it early. Her successful surgery has her out of the woods. She has a few follow-up visits left before it's back to a routine schedule.
"I was thrilled. I was so excited," said Gibson. "I'm never going to miss an annual exam again."
Manning said you should visit with your OB-GYN or primary care doctor because, in addition to screening for cervical cancer, they also scan for breast cancer and other medical issues that come up for women.
For more information on the Waco Center for Women's Health, click here.
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