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Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Are Your Partners in Fighting Cervical Cancer

Gay Johnson

CEO, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health

In 2017, more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 13,000 will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer. These numbers may sound scary, but there is good news; we are headed in the right direction. In cervical cancer alone, the death rate has decreased more than 50 percent since the 1970s – largely due to aggressive prevention and early detection efforts.

Increased use of the Pap test and HPV vaccinations are at the center of this success. The test can detect pre-cancer and early cancer in the cervix while it’s still curable. Increased vaccinations, which can protect a patient from cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers caused by an HPV infection, also lead to lower rates of cancer.

The role of WHNPs

We know that patients can sometimes feel inhibited in talking with their providers about deeply personal, women’s health issues. More progress can be made with greater awareness of the tests and treatments available to all women. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNPs) are on the front lines of ovarian and cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment. WHNP expertise extends beyond medical treatment. They are trained to empower their patients by breaking down barriers to traditionally difficult conversations – be it “embarrassing” clinical questions or sensitive cultural discussions.

These healthcare providers, with advanced degrees in nursing, are trained to focus on the whole woman at every stage of life – starting in adolescence, through childbearing years, and even post-menopause.

Working preemptively

WHNPs work alongside physicians in all 50 states – in OB-GYN offices, clinics, hospitals, and college campuses – and can practice independently in 20 states. They provide Pap tests, HPV vaccinations, STI screenings and guidance on contraceptive options, all of which can help detect ovarian and cervical cancers in the earliest and most treatable stages.

More than 8,000 certified WHNPs in the United States are helping to improve access to women’s health care services.

The first step to reducing the incidence of ovarian and cervical cancer is a simple test or immunization. Finding a trained expert can help you towards that goal.

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