Cervical cancer was once one of the most dreaded diseases, causing deaths among women. However, statistics have declined over the last 40 years.

Thanks to f pap smear examination, women were diagnosed early, even before cancer develops. The death rate went down significantly by over 50 percent. This test also detects cancer early, when it is in its most curable stage.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the cancer that occurs in the uterine cervix, at the end of the uterus and connects the upper vagina. In the United States, nearly 13, 000 women get this type of cancer, causing 4,100 deaths. It is a curable type of cancer if detected early. Vaccination is an effective preventive measure to contract the disease.

What causes cervical cancer?

A virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. People who were exposed to HPV for a long time are more at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Not all HPV infection can cause cancer. Of the 100 types of HPVs, only a few types of HPVs cause cancer. Some types of HPVs cause benign genitals or skin warts.

The type of HPV infection that causes cancer can develop in the cervix in women and penis cancer in men. It can also cause cancers in the mouth, anus and throat in both male and female.

The HPV virus can be acquired through skin or sexual contact. It is not unusual, and in fact, most people would acquire HPV once in their lives. Some types of HPV can go on its own without medications. However, some HPV has the ability to cause precancerous change in the cervix cells.

This is the reason why women should get regular pap smear test. Through the cervical cancer screening, samples of the cells from the cervix will be taken and will be analyzed for any cell changes. The earlier the changes were detected, the higher the chances that the cancer will be cured and prevented.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

During the early stage of cervical cancers, no symptoms or signs can be noticed. Symptoms can only be felt when the cancer starts to attack the surrounding tissues. However, a regular pap smear will detect this during the precancerous stage.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding, usually in between periods, after sex or after menopause
  • Heavier and longer menstruation than normal.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Pain in the pelvis or lower belly.

What are the risk factors of cervical cancer?

We know that not all types of HPVs are cancer-causing. Other factors may also contribute to the development of cervical cancer, including:

  • Overweight
  • Past or current Chlamydia infection
  • Poor immune system
  • HIV infection
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Family history of cervical cancer
  • Long use of oral contraceptives
  • 3 or more full-term pregnancies
  • Early pregnancy
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Having another sexually transmitted disease

Prevention of cervical cancer:

Women can take several preventive measures to lower the possibilities of getting the disease. It includes:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: This vaccine does not prevent all types of HPVs, but it is a better way of preventing cancer. Kids ages 11 and 12 should get two shots of HPV vaccine 6 to 12 months apart. Adolescents who were not vaccinated yet should get one. Women should get the vaccine until the age of 26 and men until the age of 21.

Safe sex: The use of condom is a preventive way to avoid acquiring the disease.

Don’t smoke: Women who smoke are at higher risk of developing this type of cancer than those who don’t smoke.

Delay sexual intercourse: The earlier a girl had her first sexual intercourse, the higher is her risk of transmitting HPV.

 

Sarah Benton is a licensed O.B. Gyne doctor, who helps women to become aware of their reproductive health. She is currently working on her clinical book and about addictions that is soon to be out at the end of this year.