Cervical Cancer Update

As Cervical Health Awareness month comes to a close, NPWH Director of Education, Susan Rawlins, MS, WHNP-BC, NP, shares an update on the state of Cervical Cancer and new resources for clinicians.

How prevalent is cervical cancer and what do we know about it now?

Cervical cancer remains a serious concern in the U.S. and around the world. While the death rate has decreased due to strides in preventing and diagnosing the disease, it is still the third most common cancer for women worldwide.[1] 13,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in the US in 2017.[2]

We know that no one event causes cervical cancer. Some of the events or conditions known to increase the risk of cervical cancer are:

  • the HPV virus,
  • smoking tobacco,
  • having a family history of cervical cancer,
  • having had a chlamydia infection,
  • being overweight,
  • or having a diet low in fruits and vegetables.

We, as practitioners, take these and other risk factors into account when seeing patients and providing well women care.

How do we prevent and screen for cervical cancer?

The HPV vaccine is a critical first line defense against cervical cancer. Since 2006, when the FDA approved the first HPV vaccine, we have been recommending it for girls starting at age 11 or 12. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices expanded that recommendation 2011 to include boys.

The CDC estimates that increasing HPV vaccination rates from the current levels to 80% would prevent an additional 53,000 future cervical cancer cases among girls now aged 12 years or younger.

You can read our latest HPV position statement here.

In addition to prevention, improved screening tests have helped us diagnose sooner and fight cervical cancer more effectively. These tests can check for cervical cancer, the cell changes that lead to cervical cancer, or for the HPV infection.

The two most common screening tests are the cervical cytology test (Pap test) and the hrHPV test.  The current preferred method of screening for cervical cancer is with co-testing – collecting cervical cytology and HPV screening at the same time. We recommend co-testing because it can identify 70% of cervical cancers missed by screening with HPV alone.[3]

Recently, the U.S. Preventative Task Force came out with draft recommendations that could impact women’s access to co-testing. NPWH and many women’s health leaders are making our voices heard and trying to ensure women have access to the best health care information and services to live long, happy, and productive lives. Check back on our website for updates soon.

How can clinicians stay on the cutting edge of preventing, screening, and treating cervical cancer?

As the only national professional nurse practitioner organization focused on women’s health, NPWH provides professional continuing education for NPs and other clinicians caring for women. We presented an HPV vaccine update at our 2017 annual conference, and it can be accessed online now.

There are over 50 continuing education activities in our online E-Learning portal. Our mission is to ensure high quality health care to women by women’s health nurse practitioners and other nurse practitioners who focus on women’s health. We hope you will take advantage of our online resources or join us at our conferences this year!

[1] National Institutes of Health. NIH Fact Sheets: Cervical Cancer. https://www.report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=76). Updated March
29, 2013. Accessed December 18, 2017

[2] American Cancer Society. “What Are the Key Statistics About Cervical Cancer?” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Updated January 5, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017

[3] Blatt AJ, et al. Comparison of cervical cancer screening results among 256,648 women in multiple clinical practices. Cancer Cytopathol. 2015;123(5):282-288. doi:10.1002/cncy.21544. (Study included ThinPrep, SurePath, Hybrid Capture 2 Assay)


2017 and Beyond at NPWH

A Look Back at 2017

2017 turned out to be an important year for women – both in terms of facing threats that limit access to quality healthcare and opening up new dialogues about sexual harassment and assault. As the year winds down, I wanted to share some perspective on the work we have done and will continue to do to help WHNPs provide the highest quality care to patients and to serve as respected voices for meeting the needs of women.

NPWH and our members continued to shine a light on women’s health issues this year, especially those that are often overlooked or not well understood. We promoted women’s health at any age, women’s sexual health, care for transgender and gender-nonconforming patients, and so much more through education, clinician resources, and participating in coalitions with ally organizations.

Here are some of the accomplishments from 2017 we are most proud of and key opportunities for you to note for 2018:

  • We are working to ensure our clinicians are getting state-of-the-science knowledge and training by bringing together experts from around the country at our Annual Premier Women’s Healthcare Conference. This year, our 20th conference, was our largest to date. More than 700 of you joined us in Seattle for learning and networking.

    For those who couldn’t make it, you can click here to view the sessions and earn CE credit. Click here to hear from women who attended the conference.  We hope to see everyone at next year’s conference, October 10-13 in San Antonio.

  • We continued to fill the gap in post-education training on women’s sexual health at our Fourth Annual Women’s Sexual Health Course (WSHC) for NPs this past June in Baltimore. 200 NPs attended this important program and expanded their knowledge of evaluating, diagnosing, and managing Female Sexual Dysfunction.
    This program, along with the companion vulvoscopy workshop, regularly sells out – so be on the lookout for registration information for the Fifth Annual WSHC (being held June 7-10, 2018, in Phoenix, AZ) in early 2018. Curious about the WHSC? View highlights from 2017 here.
  • We kept our clinicians on the cutting edge of a variety of topics critical to women’s health and well-being. We partnered with Spire Learning to host the second annual Faces & Cases Seminar: Managing Women’s Healthcare Issues Across the Lifespan.
    This regional meeting was held in Dallas in November, and will be repeated in Atlanta (February 3), Chicago (March 10), and New York City (April 14). Registration information will be posted soon.
  • We published new position statements on human sex trafficking, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment, HPV, and healthcare for  transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

  • Our continuing education offerings expanded, giving clinicians a wealth of resources to stay current in practice. In addition to the aforementioned courses from the Annual Conference, we offered a free webinar series on preventing unintended teratogen exposure in in reproductive-aged women, a free newsletter series on cord blood banking, and several CE articles from Women’s Healthcare: A Clinical Journal for NPs.

    You can view all available courses here.

  • We continued to bring resources into the modern age and put them at our practitioner’s fingertips with our Well-Woman Visit mobile app. This year, we added sections on menopause and IBS assessment.

    Click here to download it on iOS devices and here for Android.

Looking forward to 2018

  • Women are living longer. We will not let our patients who have changing health needs as they age be pushed aside. To ensure their later years are healthy and happy, we will host the 2nd Healthy at Any Age Summit in the spring of 2018 and bring multiple organizations together to focus on the issues facing women as they age.
  • We will continue to represent WHNPs as active members of several coalitions and task forces, including the National Coalition for Sexual Health, Coalition for Women’s Health Equality, Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Healthcare, and the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative, among others. We will also continue to regularly attend Capitol Hill briefings to ensure the representation of WHNPs on key healthcare issues and keep your finger on the pulse of Washington. (You can view a list of Congressional letters we signed onto in 2017 here.)

We, and our members, are dedicated to having courageous conversations about women and all aspects of their health. In this era where women’s rights to quality healthcare is consistently under attack, we look forward to 2018 and continuing to build a future where women have equal access to the justice, respect, and healthcare they deserve. Thank you for your continued support of NPWH and women’s healthcare.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2018,

G Johnson

Gay Johnson


Genetic Testing and Hereditary Cancer: A Q & A with Kate McReynolds, APRN, MSc, MSN, ANP-BC, AGN-BC

Kate McReynolds is a Genetic Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She will be speaking at our upcoming 2nd Annual Faces and Cases in Women’s Health Conference.

What is genetic testing and why is it so important?

Genetic testing for cancer susceptibility is a vital tool that can identify women who are at significantly increased risk for cancer. Nurse practitioners play an important role in identifying women who would benefit from genetic testing, referring them to providers with expertise in cancer genetics for testing, and ordering enhanced screening if a mutation is identified. About 5 to 10 percent of most cancers are hereditary, and patients who have a mutation in a gene associated with a hereditary cancer syndrome have cancer risks that are often much higher than in the general population. For many of these syndromes, we can now test for mutations in specific genes.

Genetic test results can guide clinical management including decisions about risk reducing measures such as risk reducing surgery, and screening to find cancer as early as possible. Genetic testing results can also help a woman’s family members better understand their own cancer risks and plan accordingly.

Should everyone get genetic testing?

Because only a small percentage of cancers are hereditary, not all women are good candidates for genetic testing. These tests can be expensive and are generally recommended only for women who have personal and/or family histories with certain red flags that are concerning for a hereditary cancer syndrome.

Examples of features concerning for a hereditary cancer syndrome include cancer diagnosed before age 50, an individual with multiple primary tumors, cancer of the same type in more than one person on the same side of the family and in different generations, cancers that may be related in a syndrome, rare cancers (e.g. male breast cancer) and certain ethnicities.

What should NPs know about genetic testing and genetic mutations?

When I talk to Nurse Practitioners, my goal is to help them understand the significance of taking a good cancer family history and to familiarize them with the red flags in order for them to make appropriate referrals for genetic counseling and testing. It is important that they understand the cancer risks associated with some of the more common hereditary cancer syndromes and where to find the relevant clinical management guidelines. In addition to playing a key role in enhanced screening, it is also important that that NPs understand the psychosocial impact of finding out they, or a loved one, has a hereditary cancer syndrome.

2016 NPWH/Hologic Inspiration in Women’s Health Award Winners

Since 2006, the Inspiration in Women’s Health Award has been bestowed upon winners selected for their dedication, achievements, and contributions to women’s health care and advanced practice nursing. On September 29, at the 19th Annual NPWH Premier Women’s Healthcare Conference, the 2016 Inspiration in Women’s Health Awards were presented to four awardees who have made significant contributions in the areas of education, research, clinical practice, and policy. An expert committee of nurse practitioners selected a winner in each of these four categories. Read more about this year’s awardees below.

Sharon D. Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, CMP – Education
Sharon Baker has spent her entire career focused on women’s health. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, she moved to Atlanta to work at Grady Hospital’s labor and delivery unit. While in Atlanta, she earned her masters degree from Emory University in maternal child health and joined the faculty of Medical College of Virginia (MCV) teaching the maternity rotation for undergraduate students. She taught nurse practitioner students at MCV before returning to Georgia to teach maternity nursing at Emory University.

In 1990, she was the first nurse practitioner ever hired in Rome, Georgia. Around this time, she founded a non-profit organization, The Women’s Information Network, Inc. (WIN). The first WIN program focused on a comprehensive presentation of health issues at midlife and menopause. In 1999, the Governor of Georgia appointed Sharon to the Georgia Commission on Women (GCW). She has served as Chair of the Health Committee and been reappointed several times. She works on several committees and writes blog posts on health topics that are the focus of GCW.

Sharon has lectured for many community and state organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and developed and implemented many visionary programs. Sharon’s current project is developing a workshop on end of life issues that will be offered September 27, 2016.

Naomi Jay, RN, NP, PhD – Research
Dr. Naomi Jay developed the role of the nurse practitioner in the field of high-resolution anoscopy, has been a pioneer in anal dysplasia research, and is a leader in the education of providers in high-resolution anoscopy. Her work is innovative and unique. She wrote the seminal paper on transferring colposcopy skills to high-resolution anoscopy.

She currently serves on the boards of the American Society of Cervical Colposcopy and Pathology, Quan Yin Healing Arts, and is the vice president of the International Anal Neoplasia Society. She is the co-director of the ASCCP High Resolution Ansocopy Course, IANS Advanced HRA Course, and the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons HRA Course. The meticulous practice standards developed by Dr. Jay based on her knowledge of cervical colposcopy, are by and large responsible for what are considered the diagnostic standards of HRA today.

Jennifer Kurkowski, MSN, WHNP-BC – Clinical
Jennifer Kurkowski has had a positive impact on so many young females. She specializes in bleeding disorders in young women as well as the health care needs of female patients with lupus. Once a month, she runs a combined clinic with a hematologist where she sees patients with heavy menstrual bleeding and other diagnosed bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand’s Disease. This clinic is critical in providing the best care possible for these patients as their conditions can be difficult to manage.

Jennifer provides education to patients on topics such as periods and sexual health. She attends a camp once a year for young girls with bleeding disorders, and she is involved in a lupus clinic where she sees girls with a new diagnosis of lupus to discuss contraceptive options and to provide counseling about teratogenic medications and future pregnancy risks. Jennifer has also precepted nurse practitioner students nearly every semester for the past 5 years.

Denise G. Link, PhD, WHNP-BC, CNE, FAAN, FAANP – Policy
Dr. Denise Link has made significant contributions to health care and policy as evidenced by the extensive political and legislative activities she has participated in throughout her career. Dr. Link has been at the forefront of Arizona’s policy issues since 2001. Prior to her relocation to Arizona, she was a leader in the 10 year effort to gain title recognition and full prescriptive authority for NPs and CNS in New Jersey by encouraging her nursing colleagues to speak out to legislators and to the public about the quality, safety, and effectiveness of nursing care. In 2013, as Governmental Affairs Officer, she was the spokesperson for nursing in a coalition led by then Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Nurses Association (AzNA) that intensely lobbied for Medicaid expansion in Arizona. A co-chair in the Arizona Action Coalition, she led the formation of the Arizona Coalition for APRN Consensus Model Legislation.

Dr. Link educates politicians and policy makers about the APRN role as a team leader and speaker at Lobby Day and Public Policy Day. She is the chair for the AzNA Public Policy Committee that reviews bills and makes recommendations for AzNA’s position. She is a member of the AzNA Political Action Committee (AzNA PAC), attending targeted PAC candidate fundraisers and conducting candidate interviews during the endorsement process.

Dr. Link is an infectious and tremendous leader in the political arena and inspires everyone around her to become more active in women’s health policy issues.

Do you know an NP who goes above and beyond in the classroom, in conducting research, in clinical practice, or in their advocacy efforts? If you do, consider nominating them for the 2017 Inspiration in Women’s Health Awards. Nomination information coming in early 2017. Please check www.npwh.org for details. 

Women’s Equality Day 2016

On August 26th, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day reminds us of this important milestone in our history and how far we have come since then, as well as how far we have yet to go until women have true equality.

We know that women and men often present different symptoms for the same diseases and react differently to certain drugs, medical devices, and treatments. However, women consistently suffer when their bodies respond differently than men’s. Due to gender disparities in medicine – among research subjects, and in healthcare access and delivery – women remain at risk for misdiagnoses, ineffective treatments and compromised care.

As a leader in women’s healthcare, we work to improve women’s access to primary and specialty healthcare, increase women’s wellness and health outcomes, decrease health disparities affecting women, enhance women’s access to and knowledge of health resources, and protect and promote women’s rights to make choices regarding their health within the context of their personal beliefs.

We can change the inequities in women’s healthcare, by making our voices heard and encouraging others to join the conversation. Take a look at our social media pages to see how we made our voices heard regarding women’s health equity and Women’s Equality Day: NPWH Facebook page and NPWH Twitter account.

April is STI Awareness Month

According to the CDC, there are 20 million new STI cases in the U.S. every year. We know, as dedicated health care providers, you are working hard every day to turn 20 million new cases each year into 0 new cases by helping your patients work through their sexual health questions to make informed decisions, and by serving as a resource for STI prevention and treatment information. To support your efforts we have compiled a list of materials, educational activities, and office tools related to STI prevention, screening, and treatment.

NPWH Educational Activities

Office Tools

Additional Materials/Resources from NPWH and our partners

For additional information and resources, please visit www.npwh.org.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Over the last 30 years, cervical cancer deaths have been reduced by more than 50%. Much of this success can be attributed to increased cervical cancer screening, the Pap test, and a better understanding of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and how it contributes to cervical cancer. Although we have much to be thankful for and proud of in our success in preventing cervical cancer, there are still 4,000 women who die every year from the disease.

Continued screening and education about cervical cancer are the keys to success in making sure zero women die of cervical cancer each year. But the screening guidelines can be confusing, especially when they change drastically or are not perfectly clear. How do you know what to tell your patients or which course of action is best for each age group?

NPWH has a number of resources geared toward providing clarity on cervical cancer screening guidelines and recommendations, as well as, helpful professional education resources, articles, and a cervical cancer screening toolkit.

Professional Education:

 Informational Resources: 

Together we can end cervical cancer forever!

Happy New Year

Last year was such an exciting year for us. The 18th Annual NPWH Premier Women’s Healthcare Conference in Salt Lake City, UT was an enormous success. In addition to our annual conference, we hosted our 2nd Annual Women’s Sexual Health Course for NPs in Orlando, FL, which was so popular that we had to close registration early. We also developed numerous cutting edge CE activities, including journal articles, newsletter series, and webinars.

In 2015, we updated the Well Woman Visit Mobile App to include cardiovascular health recommendations and the latest CDC STD guidelines. The launch of our new continuing education portal and revamped website have made it easier to take courses and access NPWH resources. We worked with Healthy Women to develop a cervical cancer screening toolkit, which you can pre-order now. NPWH teamed up with Bedsider to deliver grants to 6 clinical sites to help improve contraceptive use and understanding in their practice. The Bedsider projects will conclude in 2016.

Additionally, a number of the NPWH Board members were recognized as outstanding WHNP professors. NPWH’s CEO, Gay Johnson, published an article in the Nurse Practitioner Perspectives journal on the attitudes and sentiments of patients and providers toward cervical cancer screening. Susan Rawlins (Director of Education) and Susan Kendig (Director of Policy) were interviewed about the women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) specialty for an article in Advance Healthcare Network for NPs & PAs.

We hope that 2015 was just as positive and productive for you as it was for us. We are looking forward to what 2016 has in store.

Thank you for your continued support of NPWH and the future of women’s health care.

NPWH Attends the HHS Provider Roundtable Meeting

On December 16, NPWH participated in the monthly Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Provider Roundtable. Dr. Debra Houry, Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, spoke about the draft CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines. The guidelines provide suggested direction on a number of topics, including discussing risks and benefits with patients, nonpharmacological therapies, and duration of treatment. The draft guidelines are posted on the federal register and open for public comment from Dec. 14, 2015-Jan. 13, 2016. The CDC is looking for feedback and comments from providers of special populations (e.g. pregnant patients). We encourage to take a look at the draft guidelines and provide comments/feedback. The HHS Pharmaceutical Forum and the open enrollment deadline extension were also discussed during the meeting.

Spending Bill: No Major Changes to Women’s Health Programs or Policies

On December 15, Congress released a long awaited budget deal which will fund the government through FY16. Women’s groups expected the deal to contain policy riders which would be seriously harmful to the health of women and their families. Surprisingly, the bill does not contain harmful policy riders and maintains current funding levels for important preventative women’s health programs, including the PALS Act. Read the statement from NPWH and other women’s health care organizations regarding our support and applause for Congress’ protection of women’s access to mammograms.

Read more about the spending bill here.