Free cervical cancer screening and preventive treatment can benefit women in low-income communities

When 29-year-old Nyemma Wickham, arrived for a free pap test at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone in Brooklyn earlier this month, she expected another routine visit.

For the past several years, she had been diligent about receiving annual cancer screenings, which had always come back clear. On this frigid January day, however, Wickham was startled to learn the doctors had identified precancerous cells in her cervix.

Hearing this news, Wickham, who works as a paraprofessional in a Brooklyn middle school, wondered if she would need to schedule more visits and procedures, if insurance would cover the costs, and if she was facing a serious health risk. Her concerns were quickly eased because the next step took place right then, in the doctor's office. She had a complete removal of her abnormal cells, with no additional costs or procedural arrangements.

Same-day cancer screening and preventive treatment in the clinic

Cervical cancer screening technology recently introduced at the Women's Health—Family Health Centers at NYU Langone in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, enables physicians to detect and remove precancerous cells from the surface or canal of the cervix during the patient's same appointment. The loop electrosurgical excision procedure, known as LEEP, is typically performed with local anesthesia and is similar to a colon cancer screening in which physicians remove any developing polyps in real time during a colonoscopy. This ease of access to state-of-the-art treatment can help many women in low-income communities stay healthy, while avoiding time-consuming and costly interventions that seem out of reach.

"They asked me, would you like to take care of this right now in the office," says Wickham describing her screening visit. "I said, of course! It was so easy." Wickham no longer has any abnormal precancer cells of her cervix, significantly reducing her risk of developing cervical cancer.

Although Wickham, a Brooklyn College-bound millennial, regularly received annual pap tests, clinicians at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone say many patients are reticent to participate in screenings, especially older women who may not be aware of cervical cancer risks or those who are worried about insurance and documentation.

The LEEP option is local and free of charge, encouraging women to take that first step and come in for a screening. And because LEEP can treat high-grade precancer lesions in the office, it's especially helpful for women who find it hard to get away from jobs or family to take care of their own health."

Meleen Chuang, MD, Medical Director of Women's Health at the Family Health Centers, NYU Langone

Dr. Chuang says her patients are extremely grateful for this treatment option, "One patient even tried to give me cash, through tears, after her procedure."

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