Back to Top Skip to main content

The fight against cervical cancer

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Williams, the 633rd Surgical Squadron women’s health NCO, assists a patient during a routine Pap test at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois) Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Williams, the 633rd Surgical Squadron women’s health NCO, assists a patient during a routine Pap test at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois)

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — With battles raging in the war against cancer, health care experts are seeing progress in at least one fight: cervical cancer. This disease is much easier to cure when it’s found and treated early, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the health care arsenal includes very effective weapons to detect and even prevent it.

“In the United States, cervical cancer survival rates are among the highest in the world,” said Army Capt. Patricia Dominguez, a family medicine obstetrics physician at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, citing a study published in December by the National Institutes of Health. For women in other parts of the world, Dominguez said, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

The cervix is the cylinder-shaped, lower part of the uterus. It connects the uterine cavity to the vaginal canal. “The cervix is the gateway for menstrual flow,” Dominguez said, “and it’s also the outlet for babies once it’s completely dilated during childbirth.”

The Pap test, also known as the Pap smear, detects cervical cancer. The health care provider swabs the cervix for a cell sample, which is sent to a lab to be studied for signs of abnormal growth. Most women should have their first Pap smear at age 21, Dominguez said, regardless of how old they are when they become sexually active. But women with impaired immune systems should start receiving screenings before age 21 if they are sexually active.

If the Pap test results are negative – meaning, no signs of abnormal cells – women should plan to be retested every three years until age 30. Then, women getting a Pap test should add a test that checks for strains of human papillomavirus, or HPV, Dominguez said. While HPV is common, only a small fraction of women infected with this virus will develop cervical cancer, she said. But that’s no reason to become complacent.

“Almost all cervical cancer is HPV related,” said Dr. Bruce McClenathan, medical director of the Defense Health Agency immunization regional office at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Women ages 30 to 65 with negative results for both the Pap and HPV tests should plan to be tested every 5 years, Dominguez said. Women older than 65 may no longer need either test if previous results have been negative for several years, or they’ve had their cervixes removed because of noncancerous conditions, such as fibroids.

If a woman’s Pap test comes back positive, that doesn’t mean she’ll develop cervical cancer. The abnormal cells that were detected may clear on their own without any treatment. Dominguez said the usual protocol is to repeat the Pap test a year later or do a colposcopy, a procedure to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva.

If the abnormal cells are persistent, they can be removed to prevent the possibility of spreading, usually using a thin wire loop with a low-voltage electrical current. This approach is called LEEP, or loop electrosurgical excision procedure.

Left alone, abnormal cells may eventually progress to cancer. The good news is the cells are slow-growing, so it can take a decade or longer for this to happen, according to the CDC.

This doesn’t mean that cervical cancer isn’t dangerous. “The American Cancer Society estimates 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2017, eventually leading to about 4,210 deaths,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Behil, department head of San Onofre Branch Medical Clinic, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, California.

The San Onofre clinic now has the highest cervical cancer screening rate among the 13 clinics of the Navy hospital, Behil said, at almost 86 percent. But it took a concerted effort to achieve that goal. From June through August 2016, San Onofre ranked at the bottom, with a screening rate of 58.7 percent of its patient population pool.

“We focused on being proactive about scheduling appointments,” Behil said. Those efforts included telephoning women to set dates for Pap and HPV tests, and following up with those who made appointments but didn’t keep them.  The clinic has shared its best-practices approach with others and has also applied it to other health-screening measures. In November, the Navy hospital received a Military Health System High Reliability in Healthcare Award in the health care quality and patient safety category.

As for preventing cervical cancer, experts say the HPV vaccine is safe and also highly effective in preventing the virus, which causes most cervical cancer. Despite these benefits, “only about 42 percent of females and 28 percent of males in the recommended age groups have received all the recommended doses,” Dominguez said.

Health care experts believe increasing those numbers is critically important. Widespread HPV vaccination “would have huge potential” to reduce cervical as well as other types of cancer, McClenathan said.

You also may be interested in...

Fort Belvoir corpsmen comes through for moms

Article
4/20/2018
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Talena Epling proudly serves in her role as a Fort Belvoir Community Hospital board-certified lactation consultant, a rarity among enlisted service members. (Department of Defense photos by Reese Brown)

Striving to empower, lactation consultants critical for mothers, babies

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Cold weather injuries during deployments, July 2012 – June 2017

Infographic
1/18/2018
During the 5-year surveillance period, 105 cold weather injuries were diagnosed and treated in service members deployed outside the U.S. of these, 39 (37%) were immersion injuries; 33 (31%) were frostbite; 16 (15%) were hypothermia; and 17 (16%) were “unspecified” cold weather injuries. Pie chart for cold weather injuries during deployments displays depicting the information above. Number of cold weather injuries bar chart: Of all 105 cold weather injuries during the surveillance period, 68% occurred during the first two cold seasons. Bar chart shows the number of cold weather injuries by year: •	2012-2013 cold season had 35 cold weather injuries •	2013-2014 cold season had 100 cold weather injuries •	2014 -2015 cold season had 13 cold weather injuries •	2015-2016 cold season had 11 cold weather injuries •	2016 – 2017 had 10 cold weather injuries Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR  #ColdReadiness

This infographic documents cold weather injuries during deployments for the July 2012 – June 2017 cold seasons.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Health Readiness

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Article
1/18/2018
Cervical cancer deaths have decreased by more than 50 percent due to regular screening tests that detect abnormalities before cancer develops. (MHS graphic)

Cervical cancer deaths have decreased by more than 50 percent due to regular screening tests that detect abnormalities before cancer develops

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Complications and Care Related to Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery among Active Component Service Women U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

Infographic
1/5/2018
Maternal complications and delivery outcomes are important components of the overall health and well-being of reproductive-age service women. This analysis provides an update on pregnancy complications and characterizes the counts, rates, and trends of several specific pregnancy complications. FINDINGS •	55,601 U.S. service women whose pregnancies resulted in 63,879 live births had 657,060 medical encounters •	For all age groups, percentages of live births affected by preterm labor decreased, but during 2012 – 2016, the percentages of pregnant service members diagnosed with obesity increased. •	The percentage of pregnant service members affected by gestational diabetes was more than twice as high for obese women, compared with non-obese women (12.4% vs. 5.5%). Bar graph shows the number of medical encounters with a primary (first-listed) diagnosis of any pregnancy-related complication or indication for care decreased each year between 2012 and 2016. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR  Background image: New born being provided medical attention by nurse. Secondary image: babies of diverse background on a blanket.

This analysis provides an update on pregnancy complications and characterizes the counts, rates, and trends of several specific pregnancy complications.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Women's Health

Contraception among active component service women, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

Infographic
1/5/2018
Because the majority of women serving in the Armed Forces are of childbearing age, and women’s military career opportunities have expanded into combat roles, contraceptive health care is an increasingly important public health issue. The lack of available, population-based descriptive information on contraceptive use among U.S. service women has generated questions and concerns about ready access to these medical products. This infographic summarizes the annual prevalence of permanent sterilization, as well as use of long – and short-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs and SARCs, respectively), contraceptive counseling services, and use of emergency contraception from 2012 through 2016, among active component service women. FINDINGS •	2012 through 2016, Sterilization decreased from 4.2% to 3.6% LARC use increased from 17.2% to 21.7%; SARC use decreased from 38.5% to 30.4%. •	Emergency contraception use increased from 0.4% to 1.9%. •	Among deployed women, the average annual prevalence of permanent sterilization was 4.2%. •	For deployed women, LARC use was 17.9% SARC use was 28.0%. •	Emergency contraception use among deployed women was 0.4%. •	262,907 (76.2%) women of childbearing potential (WOCBP) used either a LARC or a SARC at some time during the surveillance period. •	The vast majority of service women have utilized at least one form of contraception, and women are selecting LARCs in greater numbers with each passing year. The bar graph displays information on the annual prevalence of contraceptive utilization, by type, service women of child-bearing potential, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012– 2016. Graphic displayed: contraception option. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

This infographic summarizes the annual prevalence of permanent sterilization, as well as use of long – and short-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs and SARCs, respectively), contraceptive counseling services, and use of emergency contraception from 2012 through 2016, among active component service women.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Women's Health

Gestational diabetes among pregnant service members, active component, U.S. Armed Forces 2012 – 2016

Infographic
1/5/2018
Gestational diabetes is an abnormal increase in blood sugar levels that can adversely affect the health of both a pregnant woman and her baby. During 2012 – 2016, 4,017 (6.3%) of active component female service members who had live births were affected by gestational diabetes. Women aged 25-34 and 35-49 years had consistently higher annual prevalences of gestational diabetes than younger females. The percentage of pregnant service members affected by gestational diabetes was more than twice as high for obese women as for non-obese women (12.4% vs. 5.5%). The percentage of live births affected by gestational diabetes increased with increasing age and was highest among Asians/Pacific Islanders. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

This infographic documents the incidence and prevalence of gestational diabetes pregnant service members, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Women's Health

Pregnancies and live births among female service members

Infographic
12/21/2017
Women have been able to serve officially in the U.S. military since 1901. Both the number of women serving in the active component and their occupational roles have steadily increased and expanded. Currently, almost one in seven active component service members are female and more than 95% of military occupational specialties are open to women. This infographic summarizes data on the demographic and military characteristics of women including women of childbearing potential (WOCBP) in the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces during 2012 – 2016. Data on pregnancy-related care and birth rates are also presented. FINDINGS •	In 2016, WOCBP comprised the vast majority of active component service women. •	202,849 women served in the active component of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. 197,947 (97.6%) were WOCBP. Pie chart displays depicting this information. •	In 2016, 13.1% of all WOCBP had at least one pregnancy-related event. Pie chat displays depicting this information. Female stick figures display to show visual of the largest proportions of WOCBP. Breakdown of WOCBP by service: •	Army (32.9%) •	Air Force (30.0%) •	Navy (29.7%) •	Marine Corps (7.5%) Pie chart displays to visually depict breakdown of WOCBP by service. The largest proportions of WOCBP were: •	In a communications / intelligence occupation (32.3%) •	Junior enlisted rank (46.5%) •	Non-Hispanic white (43.4%) •	20 – 24 years old (34.3%) Live births: •	There were 63,879 live births during the surveillance period. •	Overall live birth rate was 64.9 live births per 1,000 person-years (p-yrs). This rate of live births decreased steadily from 69.8 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2012 to 59.7 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2016. Line graph displays this information. Rates of live births were highest among: •	Women who were 30 – 34 years old •	Enlisted or junior officer rank •	Army •	In healthcare / intelligence occupations •	Married Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

This infographic summarizes data on the demographic and military characteristics of women including women of childbearing potential (WOCBP) in the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces during 2012 – 2016. Data on pregnancy-related care and birth rates are also presented.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Pregnancies among female service members, Active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

Infographic
12/21/2017
With the increasing numbers of service women and the expansion of roles available to women within the military, understanding the epidemiology of pregnancy is important for both the health of U.S. service women and the readiness of the U.S. fighting force, two closely related issues. Between 2012 – 2016, 344,536 unique women of childbearing potential (WOCBP) served at least 1 day in the military, and of those, 132,466 spend at least 1 day as a recruit trainee. Of the 224,718 WOCBP who served at any time in 2016, 13.1% had at least one pregnancy-related event during that year. A “pregnancy-related event,” refers to a health care encounter (visit) for which the record contains a diagnosis code for either pregnancy or a positive pregnancy test. In 2016, the highest prevalence of pregnancy-related events was among service women 30-34 years of age (16.8%) and among senior enlisted women (13.7%). Pie chart displays depicting the information. The annual prevalence of pregnancy-related events decreased slightly, from 14.2% in 2012 to 13.1% in 2016. Line plot graph displays this information. FINDINGS •	Prevalence of pregnancy-related events was approximately evenly distributed among the race/ethnicity categories and military occupation groups. •	A slightly higher percentage of WOCBP in the Army (14.5%) had pregnancy-related events compared to WOCBP in the other services. •	A higher percentage of women who were married (21.4%) had a pregnancy-related event, compared with those in the single (5.7%) or “other” (8.8) categories. •	Only 0.2% of women who served during a recruit training period in any given year had a pregnancy-related event. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 11). Go to www.Health.mil/MSMR.  Graphic on infographic shows a pregnant service member.

With the increasing numbers of service women and the expansion of roles available to women within the military, understanding the epidemiology of pregnancy is important for both the health of U.S. service women and the readiness of the U.S. fighting force, two closely related issues. This infographic documents pregnancies among female service members, ...

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Live births among female service members, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012 – 2016

Infographic
12/21/2017
Did you know…?  •	From 2012 – 2016, there were 63,879 live births to women of childbearing potential in the active component. The overall live birth rate was 64.9 live births per 1,000 person-years (p-yrs). The live birth rate decreased steadily from 69.8 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2012 to 59.7 per 1,000 p-yrs in 2016. The decrease was primarily driven by declining rates among women in their 20s. Overall, live birth rates were highest among women who were: •	30-34 years old •	Army members •	In healthcare occupations •	Married Of the total 63,879 live birth deliveries: •	24.7% were cesarean •	75.3% were vaginal Pie chart depicting this information displays. United States map displays showing the highest numbers of deliveries during the surveillance period reported by military hospitals at: •	Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, VA (7.4%) •	Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA (6.1%) •	The Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, TX (4.1%) •	Womack Army Medical Center, NC (3.8%) •	Tripler Army Medical Center, HI (3.7%) Live birth rates were broadly similar among the race/ethnicity groups, although the overall rate was slightly higher among American Indians/ Alaska Natives. Access the full report in the November 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No.11). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

This infographic documents live births among female service members, active component, U.S. Armed Forces from 2012 – 2016.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

DHA-IPM 16-003: Interim Procedures Memorandum, Clinical Practice Guidelines for Access to Methods of Contraception and Contraceptive Counseling

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Interim Procedures Memorandum (DHA-IPM) establishes comprehensive standards on care with respect to methods of contraception and counseling on methods of contraception for members of the Armed Forces and all who are eligible for medical services through the Military Health System (MHS).

  • Identification #: DHA-IPM 16-003
  • Date: 12/11/2017
  • Type: DHA Interim Procedures Memorandum
  • Topics: Women's Health

Winning against breast cancer with the help of TRICARE

Article
11/3/2017
Air Force Col. Theresa Medina, 319th Medical Group commander, and her daughter Sophia, pose for a photo at a harvest festival Oct. 7, 2017 at Grand Forks, N.D. Medina was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer on Nov. 3, 2011, but with the help of TRICARE and the support of family and friends she is now cancer free. (Courtesy photo)

Fifteen minutes after finding out she landed a position as a squadron commander at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, she found out she was diagnosed with cancer

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health

Breast reconstruction can aid psychological healing

Article
10/30/2017
Army Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, a plastic surgeon at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, discusses options available for reconstructive surgery with a patient. (U.S. Army photo by Marcy Sanchez)

Breast reconstruction as a part of cancer care is one of the procedures backed by national health care policy, requiring TRICARE and insurance companies to provide reconstructive services

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Women's monthly symptoms may indicate more serious conditions

Article
10/27/2017
Nagging symptoms that are assumed to be the result of a woman’s monthly cycle can really be warning signs of two common diseases, both of which are treatable.

For Women’s Health Month, providers are encouraging women to get evaluated for endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome – two common conditions that can go undiagnosed

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

More women are winning the battle against breast cancer

Article
10/26/2017
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jada Leahy (right), a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Pensacola, and Michelle Wilkes, a breast health specialist, talks to a patient about breast cancer.  Some warning signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or armpit, nipple discharge, any change in the size or shape of the breast or pain in the breast. (U.S. Navy photo by Jason Bortz)

New treatments, better results for breast cancer

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Cancer vaccine for youth is effective, safe

Article
10/25/2017
The HPV vaccine is very safe, and most people don’t have any problems or side effects. Studies have shown the vaccine caused HPV rates to decline 64 percent among teenaged girls ages 14 to 19, and 34 percent among women ages 20 to 24. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High)

Experts share what parents need to know about the HPV vaccine

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.