O’Connor Hospital Community Class Focuses on Women’s Health

San Jose, CA – As part of Cervical Health Awareness Month, O’Connor Hospital physician Mary Margaret O’Neill, MD, and Kay Thanawala, CNM, will present a comprehensive workshop entitled Woman to Woman: Understanding Your Annual Exam on Wednesday, January 30, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Community members are invited to attend free of charge.

“Cervical Health Awareness Month provides an opportunity to focus on women’s health and cervical health issues, including HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer,” Dr. O’Neill said.

“Class participants will learn about well woman visits, which should include a pelvic exam, what is a normal and abnormal Pap test, screening guidelines for cervical cancer and the role that HPV plays in the disease,” Dr. O’Neill said. “We will cover HPV vaccine recommendations and barriers,” she added.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, but with the increased use of the Pap test for early detection, cervical cancer deaths have fallen more than 70 percent. Each year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S., and about 4,000 women die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable, and the HPV vaccination and Pap screening tests are important parts of cervical cancer prevention,” Dr. O’Neill said.

Cervical cancer usually does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced. It occurs when cells in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens at the top of the vagina, slowly become abnormal. Screening tests, such as the Pap test, can help find early signs of the disease so that problems can be treated early, before they turn into cancer.

The majority of the cases of cervical cancer are caused by a strain of the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted virus that is responsible not only for cervical cancer but also for genital warts. The HPV vaccine, which protects against HPV infection and HPV-related diseases, offers the greatest health benefits to individuals, both boys and girls, who receive all three doses of the vaccine before having any type of sexual activity.

Dr. O’Neill received her medical degree from Creighton University. She is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She grew up in the San Jose area, where she has been practicing Ob/Gyn since 1990. She travels extensively, volunteering her medical expertise in developing countries around the world.

Kay Thanawala, CNM, graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She has a B.A in psychology and a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery. She has worked with a diverse population of women, from recent Mexican and African immigrants in the Bronx to Amish families in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Dr. O’Neill and Thanawala will speak and answer your questions as part of the O’Connor Hospital Living Well Community Lecture Series. All classes are free of charge, but please call (800) 220-0182 for reservations or register online . Woman to Woman: Understanding Your Annual Exam will take place on Wednesday, January 30, 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the Medical Office Building (MOB) Auditorium at O’Connor Hospital, 2101 Forest Avenue, San Jose. Refreshments will be served.