At 32, She Didn’t Know About Cervical Cancer and HPV – Until Her Diagnosis

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January 22, 2020

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Stephany Goyla found out she had cervical cancer after her first-ever Pap smear at the age of 32. A self-described workaholic, Ms. Goyla admits she didn’t know anything about cervical cancer and had postponed seeing a doctor for screenings since moving to South Florida from the Caribbean island of Curacao.

Like many U.S. adults, she didn’t realize that cervical cancer remains one of the most highly preventable diseases in the U.S. and that it tends to occur in young or middle-aged women. Also, more than 90 percent of cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection.

(Watch Now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from patient Stephany Goyla and Noah Kalman, M.D., radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute. Video by Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues.)

Cervical cancer screenings, which help detect changes in the cells of the cervix, include cervical cytology (also called the Pap test or Pap smear) and, in new guidelines, testing for HPV.

“I used to work a lot – I used to work 14-hour days, including Saturdays and Sundays sometimes,” says Ms. Goyla, who works as an accountant. “For the six years that I’ve lived in the United States, where we have really good doctors, I had not visited the doctor once. As for the cause of the cancer, which is HPV, I was never vaccinated when I was 15- or 16-years-old. As for my Pap (test), I had never done a Pap.”

Noah Kalman, M.D., radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute, was part of the team that treated Ms. Goyla.

“She had been seen by her gynecologist and then sent to one of our gynecologic oncologists,” explains Dr. Kalman. “In consultation with our gynecologic treatment team, we decided that the best treatment for her was a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.”

Like with other cases at the Institute, Ms. Goyla’s treatment options were presented at a tumor board, a regular meeting where a group of specialists — surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and others — jointly develops the best plan of action for each patient.

Fortunately, Ms. Goyla’s cancer was isolated.

“Stephany was an amazing patient,” says Dr. Kalman. “She had a great attitude. Now, after a number of months, she’s had new imaging scans that have shown there is no evidence of disease and … she is doing very well.”

Ms. Goyla is very grateful to the Institute’s team of experts and support staff. 

“It was only located in my cervix area, so I was very happy,” says Ms. Goyla. “Throughout this entire journey, I’m praying every day that I’m strong and that I could get through my next appointment. I felt positive throughout the entire process (at) Miami Cancer Institute. I was surrounded by people who had a positive attitude and made me feel better.”

See Ms. Goyla and Dr. Kalman discuss cervical cancer, HPV and Pap smears during a Resource Live session on Facebook.

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