How In Tune are You with Your Cervical Health?

Jan 19, 2018

Did you know that cervical cancer is not only the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide but also one of the most preventable? Each year, January is recognized as Cervical Health Awareness Month, allowing for an open conversation about cervical cancer, how it can be treated, and how it can be prevented. So let’s talk about your cervical health. Cervix.jpg

What is Cervical Cancer?

This year, more than 4,000 women in the United States will die of cervical cancer with another 12,000 being diagnosed. All women are at risk for cervical cancer, though it most often happens in women over the age of 30. Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina, and occurs when your cells grow at an abnormal rate. We now know that this cell behavior is caused by human papillomavirus or HPV. In addition to HPV, these things can also increase your risk of cervical cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Having HIV or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems
  • Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years)
  • Having given birth to three or more children

Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent
  • It is highly curable when found and treated early

Cervical Cancer may not cause any symptoms early on. Possible symptoms of a more advanced disease may include:

  • Abnormal bleeding, such as between regular menstrual periods, after intercourse, or after menopause
  • Pelvic pain not related to your menstrual cycle
  • Heavy or unusual discharge
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Pain during urination

Tests to Detect Cervical Cancer

The Pap test, or the Pap smear, is one of the most reliable and effective cancers screening tests available. This test screens for abnormal or precancerous cells found on your cervix. You should get a Pap test if:

  • You are a woman aged 21 or older.
    • Women aged 21 to 65 should get screened every three years
    • Women aged 30 to 65 can choose a combination of a Pap test and HPV testing every five years

HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are most commonly found in cervical cancer. This test is done at the same time as the Pap test by using a small soft brush to collect cervical cells. If you would like to schedule a visit with one of our doctors or midwives to get either a Pap or HPV test, click here.

How Cervical Cancer is Treated

Early cervical cancer can be treated and in some cases cured by removing or destroying the precancerous or cancerous tissue. Treatment of cervical cancer depends on:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The size and shape of the tumor
  • The woman’s age and general health
  • Her desire to have children in the future

Different types of treatments are available for patients with cervical cancer. The standard treatments used are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.

How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancer?

As we mentioned earlier, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with regular screening tests and follow-up. Here are some things you can do to stay cancer free.

  • See your doctor/midwife regularly for a Pap test and HPV test
  • Follow-up with your doctor if your Pap test results are not normal
  • Get the HPV vaccine. This will protect against different types of the virus that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It’s recommended that children starting at age 11 or 12 start these shots.
  • Don’t smoke
  • Use condoms during sex

As always, make sure you are scheduling your regular appointments with your doctor or midwife.  It’s our goal to make sure you stay your healthiest. 


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