Cervical Cancer Can Be Prevented
While many cancers cannot be prevented, cervical cancer can be prevented for many people.
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, which is the lower portion of the uterus. It is often caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and can be prevented with the HPV vaccination. Cervical cancer is very treatable if found early. Routine screenings can help diagnose the virus and abnormal cells sooner and improve treatment outcomes.
Cervical cancer starts when the body’s cells in the cervix start growing out of control. When those cells grow and divide very rapidly, they create a tumor.
According to WomensHealth.gov, more than 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer each year. It mostly affects women who are 30 or older, but all women are at risk.
What are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?
Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which is passed by genital contact. It is most commonly spread by vaginal or anal sex and can be passed even when the affected person has no symptoms. Over time, HPV can cause cervical cancer. Today, there are vaccines for younger people that can help prevent HPV, which in turns reduces the risk of cervical cancer for women.
Other risk factors include:
- Having HIV or reduced immunity
- Taking birth control pills for a long time (more than five years)
- Having given birth to three or more children
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Unprotected sex (condoms help decrease the transmission of the HPV virus to the areas that are covered, but can still be transmitted through skin to skin contact that is not protected)
You may have no symptoms if you have cervical cancer, however some women experience bleeding or discharge from the vagina outside of menstruation cycles.
How Do I Know if I Have Cervical Cancer?
Having regular exams with an OB/GYN is the best way to detect cervical cancer early. Women who are sexually active should have yearly OB/GYN well-woman visits.
Women over the age of 21 should have regular Pap smear screenings, which look for changes in cervical cells that could become cancerous if not treated. If your OB/GYN tells you that your screening came back abnormal, additional tests may be needed to determine is cancer is present. In some cases, these abnormal cells resolve themselves.
Physicians are now recommending the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls who are aged 11 or 12. Talk to your physician to see if this is the right choice for you and your child. If you are looking for a physician, use the online directory: www.beebehealthcare.org/find-a-doc.
For more information, click here, or contact Carrie Snyder, the Beebe Women's Health Nurse Navigator, at (844) 316-3330, or email [email protected]