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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Back to school? Back to you!

Check-ups aren't just for kids! It’s just as important that you take the time to keep yourself well.  Many women tend to skip that yearly gyn exam, especially if they don’t think they need a pap and aren’t having problems. But regular health exams with an OB/GYN are critical in the prevention of female cancers. Annual exams and tests can help physicians detect problems early so that treatment can be started and give women the best possible outcome.

“Prevention is the key,” said Dr. Gregory Willis, gynecologic oncologist with the PinnacleHealth Women’s Cancer Center. “ Yearly exams are really necessary even if a pap isn't needed at that time. These exams can detect changes, cancers, masses or other problems.”

The following are several exams that women can expect to have at a yearly check-up.

Pelvic Exam- this is performed by the provider to check the internal female organs for normal shape and size.

Pap test- this is a test to check for cancer of the cervix (the opening to a woman's uterus). The cells from the cervix are prepared and looked at under a microscope.

Clinical breast exam- this is an exam done by the provider feeling and looking at the breast to check for breast cancer.

STD test- If you are at risk, your OBGYN will offer you tests for sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

HPV test- Another test your OB/GYN may recommend is a mammogram and a test for HPV ( Human Papilloma Virus). HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection, and it can cause cervical cancer and other cancers including cancer of he vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cause oropharyngeal cancer( cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

There is a vaccine to prevent HPV, which can protect both males and females against the disease. Talk to your  Gynecologist about the vaccine.

It is important for women to keep yearly exams and have an open and honest dialogue with their OB/GYN so that all necessary testing and exams can be done.

Need to find an OB/GYN? Visit to see reputable providers in your area.

8 reasons gynecological surgery isn’t as bad as you think

  1. Options - At PinnacleHealth, women have more options for treating common gynecological concerns.  Advanced technology offers options of different procedures and with three hospitals, there is always a location convenient for you and your family!
  2. Recovery time - Many women remember the long recovery time that accompanied a surgery such as a hysterectomy. With the advanced laparoscopic  and robotic-assisted techniques, women are back on their feet much more quickly, usually within 1-2 weeks!
  3. Pain - Minimally invasive surgery refers to a surgery where there are smaller or fewer incisions than were previously used.  Smaller and fewer incisions mean less pain for the patient which helps to speed recovery!
  4. Experience - The providers at the Pennsylvania Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery at PinnacleHealth have decades of experience with your surgery. They know exactly the best way to provide you the care you need with the comfort you need. 
  5. Expertise - The surgeons at PinnacleHealth not only have experience, but they have the expertise gained from constantly continuing their educations.  Frequent conferences, and training events keep our physicians up to date on the best ways to treat common gyn conditions.
  6. Technology - We've come a long way baby!  Thankfully most people have little experience with surgeries.  But that also leaves most people with an outdated sense of how surgery today works.  The advanced technology now available allows for patients to receive smaller incisions ( and sometimes no incision!) and have shorter procedures resulting in less complications.  
  7. Comfort - Even with a short hospital stay, you want to be comfortable.  Patient feedback on all our locations, Community General, Harrisburg Hospital and the new West Shore Hospital, indicates that patients are comfortable at PinnacleHealth and enjoy the amenities available including private rooms, flat screen TVs, and Expressly for you dining plan, patient feel at home until they are able to return home.
  8. Support -The great team at your OBGYN office works collaboratively with our staff to ensure your questions are answered and needs are met.  This includes financial counselors, nursing staff and discharge planners. 

What to expect when you need gynecological surgery
Yearly gyn exams are important to catch problems early.  So many women either assume they have no problems or are afraid of finding one.  So what happens when there is a problem?

There is actually good news if your exam shows a problem—that good news is that you know.  Knowledge is power.  Once you know of a problem, you and your team of providers can then develop a plan to treat the problem and get you back to good health.  A diagnosis of fibroids, endometriosis or cancer can be scary, but women and their families can take comfort in knowing that these are conditions that the physicians at PinnacleHealth have experience dealing with and can provide treatments for.

What options do I have?
Often surgery is the best option for the treatment of many gynecological conditions.  Your physician will review your surgical options, and together you can decide the best choice for you.  You should ask your physician about his or her experience with the procedure, what hospital they recommend  and any other questions you may have.

Consider what hospital you will have surgery in. Do some research and look for the type of technology they have (do they have robotic and minimally invasive options?), look at their infection rates and look for any other quality indicators such as Center of Excellence accreditation.

You always have choices. With your physician’s guidance, your questions answered and a feeling of comfort with the hospital, you are ready for surgery. Rest assured you are in good hands and are on the road back to being a healthier and happier woman!

For more information on minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and options at PinnacleHealth, visit

Specialized Cancer Care for Special Women

All women are special.  Mom, sisters, friends, and of course you, these  are some of the most special people on earth.  As each women is special, and different, so should her care be, especially when facing a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.  While it’s scary to consider, knowing about cancer it your options before you need them, can be incredibly comforting.  Here is an overview of the basics of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Locally there are experts in cancer available to care for you and your family during this difficult time. Your care team might include:

  • Nurse navigator - This nurse will assist with every aspect of coordinating care, from helping to get financial resources or transportation, to answering questions and scheduling appointments.  
  • Surgeons - Your condition may require surgery and there are many surgeons that specialize. PinnacleHealth has surgeons specific to breast, gynecology, gynecologic oncology and many more.
  • Medical oncologists - Oncologist is a term to describe someone that deals with cancer.  Medical oncologists deal with cancer with medical or drug therapies.
  • Radiation oncologists - Radiation oncologists treat cancer with safe and targeted radiation therapy delivered in a comfortable setting, often time in short treatment sessions.

These expert providers will discuss your case together and decide what is the best plan for you every step of the way.  This is your support team and these compassionate providers are always available  to answer questions and work to keep you comfortable and moving towards better health.

Many people think that cancer treatments are very painful, or very scary.  Thanks to advanced technology treatments have become very tolerable and are given in comfortable settings with minimal side affects.

Radiation therapy treatments are provided in a warm and inviting room where patients lay on a table and can enjoy music of images on a screen above them.  The linear accelerator does all the work, moving around the patient and delivering short bursts of painless radiation doses designed to target the tumor but not the healthy tissue, thus reducing or even eliminating side effects.

Chemotherapy brings up many questions about hair loss and nausea.  While these can sometimes be present, all the research to date had provided us with great knowledge about what to expect for each drug so we can help manage any side effects.  For example, to prevent nausea and vomiting, patients often receive medicines before and after treatments to prevent nausea.

Surgical procedures have advanced so that incisions can be smaller ( and sometimes no incision is necessary!) so that there is less pain , less risk of infection and faster recovery.

Many people still believe that to get the best care you need to travel to a big city.  Thankfully this is no longer the case!  The majority of cancers, including breast, cervical and uterine, can be expertly treated in your own community by providers with extensive experience and success.  PinnacleHealth is proud to provide two cancer centers will a large array of services to make extensive travel unnecessary, thus reducing the burden a patient and their family feel during cancer treatment.  With the PinnacleHealth Cancer Center available at the Community Campus on the East Shore and the new Ortenzio Cancer Center at PinnacleHealth on the West Shore Campus, patients can spend less time traveling and more time with family and loved ones.

Cancer can be scary, but knowing you are not alone and have the strength and support of an expert team behind you, can help you or a loved on face the challenge with hope and strength.

For more information about cancer services at PinnacleHealth, visit