What Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Cancer

About 13,000 women will likely receive a diagnosis of cervical cancer this year. Because of improvements in awareness and screening, this rate is down by about 50% since the mid-1970s. While this is great news for women’s health in general, it’s little consolation if you’re one of those 13,000.

Nevertheless, cervical cancer is slow-growing, easy to detect, and, in many cases, preventable. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the team at The Women’s Center wants every woman to know some important facts about cervical cancer.

HPV and cervical cancer

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common origin of cervical cancer. Although there are about 100 strains of HPV, only a few affect the cervix, and even then, most women’s immune systems take care of the virus without problems. For some women, though, HPV endures for years and becomes part of the mutation process of cervical cells.

Receiving the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the risk of contracting one of the series of viruses, but it does target some of the specific sources that create increased cervical cancer risk. Combined with regular screening, the vaccine is part of a strong cervical cancer safety net.

Symptoms of cervical cancer

In its earliest stages, cervical cancer has no symptoms. Without specific testing, there’s no way to know if cancerous mutations are starting.

Advanced cervical cancer can produce symptoms, including pain during intercourse, pelvic pain not related to intercourse, irregular vaginal bleeding, or a vaginal discharge that may have a strong odor. If you have any of these symptoms, contact The Women’s Center location nearest you for an appointment to evaluate your condition.

The importance of screening for cervical cancer prevention

Before cervical cancer begins, abnormal, precancerous cervical cells can be detected through a Pap test, and a dedicated HPV test can check for the virus. Irregular results from a Pap test may result in a follow-up HPV test to confirm, followed by a colposcopy, which is a detailed examination of your cervical tissue.

Regular testing helps identify precancerous changes to cervical cells. These precancerous cells may return to their normal state, or they may develop further into cervical cancer. In fact, few HPV infections lead to precancerous cells, and few cases of precancerous cells develop into cervical cancer. HPV infection is very common, but cervical cancer is not.

Precancerous cells can be treated before cancer develops if you and your doctor are alerted to their presence through regular screening. If you’re overdue for a Pap test, or if you’re unsure about when you should have one, contact The Women’s Center today.

Cervical cancer treatment

In the unlikely event you develop cervical cancer, you can choose from a range of treatment options, depending on the stage of your cancer and other health issues. Hysterectomy is a common surgical solution if cervical cancer hasn’t yet spread. Some surgical options are available for women with early-stage cancer who want to retain their ability to become pregnant.

As with other cancers, radiation and chemotherapy may be used, alone or in combination with each other or surgery, depending on the stage of your cervical cancer.

The practitioners at all of The Women’s Center locations strongly support regular screening for cervical cancer as the best way for you to remain untouched by the disease. Call or click today to arrange your appointment.

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