Doctor speaks about high rate of cervical cancer in West Virginia

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginian and other Appalachian states’ women have a higher rate of cervical cancer than in other parts of the country.

That is according to Ohio State professor Electra Paskett, Ph.D. who spoke at the West Virginia University School of Public Health, part of the Dean’s Colloquium Series that aims to highlight issues and topics in public health. Paskett specializes in epidemiology, which is the study of diseases, and cancer prevention.

Paskett said there are a variety of factors that contribute to the higher rates of cervical cancer and for that reason, there has to be a variety of approaches to resolving the disparity that exists in Appalachia. She said she knows this from researching and working closely with women in this part of the country.

“We’re working with clinics in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia to implement programs in the clinics that focus on the factors that influence cervical cancer, which are smoking cessation, regular cervical cancer screening and the uptake of the HPV vaccine,” she Paskett said. “We’ll be taking what we learned works and teaching the practitioners and whole clinic system on how to implement those interventions.”

She said it’d be great to have more time to train practitioners, while they are in school, how to better talk to their patients because having in-depth conversations can help to lower the higher rates of cervical cancer. Paskett said teaching this teaching doesn’t just have to focus on smoking cessation or pap screenings but that it could be about diabetes education, for example.

Paskett said it is important to use the organization’s strengths to create these positive encounters. She admitted that even she does not spend enough time teaching her own students how to have positive and in-depth conversations but that she hoped to change that.

“I teach the medical students at Ohio State one lecture on the social determinants of health and really everything boils down to the social determinants of health,” she said.

The dean of the school Jeffrey Coben it was very significant to have Paskett speak to students and faculty because her research and presentation provided a great learning opportunity.

“We are already collaborating with regards to the implementation of the study in the clinics throughout West Virginia,” Corben said.

However, Corben said it was not enough for only the school of public health to put her research into practice.

“We also need to work across the schools here in our medical school, our dental school, our pharmacy school, and our nursing school to make sure all this information is available to everyone and that we begin to act sooner rather than treating people after they get sick,” Corben said.

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