For Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Mountainside Medical Group OB/GYN, Dr. Vanessa Parisi, why she thinks spreading awareness and prevention of cervical cancer is so important. “There has been a drastic decrease in the number of cervical cancer cases and cervical related deaths because of pap smears and HPV vaccines,” Dr. Parisi shares. “But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in our country where we have so many resources available to us.”
Dr. Parisi actively participates in community outreach programs related to cervical cancer screenings and treatments as well as global awareness by traveling to several different countries. “I still have patients in their 30s who have never had a pap smear, and a lot of young women who are not getting the vaccine or going to their pap smear appointment routinely, so I want to raise awareness of the importance of utilizing the resources we have available to us.”
So what does Dr. Parisi stress in her community outreach? “We are fortunate we have screening tests for cervical cancer, whereas for other types of cancer we do not,” she says. “If you go to your OB/GYN appointments regularly and have your pap smears done as scheduled, then if anything arises, we can typically take care of it.” Dr. Parisi also stresses the importance of the HPV vaccines. “I have been to other countries where they do not have access to vaccines, doctors or hospitals for several days because they have to travel on foot. Here we have such accessibility to the vaccine.”
There are more than 100 strains of HPV and 14 high-risk strains with type 16 and type 18 accounting for 80% of cervical cancers. Depending on which vaccines you get, they will cover at least those two major high-risk strains. “Getting the vaccine is an easy decision. The supply of the vaccine in this area is substantial, so I encourage my patients and the community to take advantage of something that can protect them. I have gotten the vaccine, I have told my sister to get the vaccine and I tell all of my young patients to get the vaccine.” The Gardasil vaccine is covered under insurance up to age 26 and is available at age 11 according to the CDC.
Dr. Parisi also shares how she got involved in global outreach and why she is passionate about it.
“My first trip was when I was in undergrad,” she shares. "I wanted to travel and was minoring in Spanish, so I found an organization and went to Ecuador and worked in an emergency room. I learned a lot and so it just spiraled from there and I spent three summers in Africa, two in Uganda and one in Ghana. I’ve also gone to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Peru and will be going to the Philippines on a surgical mission soon."
She also mentioned why she is so interested in talking to women about cervical cancer.
"I really enjoy education," Dr. Parisi said. "I do not think women are taught as much as they need about their bodies. When I give talks in the community, there are women who don’t know that a 10-day period or pain during sex is not normal, or they may be paying to much attention to what is going on in their lives and ignoring something that is going on with their bodies. My goal is to bring back the patient/doctor trust and relationship, so I sit with my patients and listen and talk through their concerns. I think if you can’t trust your OB/GYN then there is a problem. I want my patients to be comfortable so they will come to me early if there is something wrong so I can use my resources to help them. I always try and make it a point to give my patients the time they need. I think that goes a long way.”
To learn more about cervical cancer or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vanessa Parisi at our Glen Ridge office, please click here or call (973) 748-7953.