In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this January, the healthcare providers at Abraham Family Medicine are here to provide some valuable information about this particularly dangerous form of cancer. Cervical cancer is most-commonly caused by exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease. In many cases, a woman’s immune system is able to prevent HPV from becoming harmful. However, in some instances the virus can survive for years, causing cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells. Thankfully, cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it’s found early. That’s why is so important to know the warning signs of cervical cancer and go for regular cervical cancer screening appointments.
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 13,000 women in the US are annually diagnosed with cervical cancer. They estimate that over 4,200 women will die of cervical cancer in this year. While it was once considered one of the most deadly forms of cancer for women, the mortality rate for women with cervical cancer has decreased by more than 50% over the last 40 years. This is thanks in large part to the increased use of Pap testing, a screening method that is able to detect changes in the cervix before cancer even develops.
Since cervical cancer is so heavily associated with HPV, many of the most common risk factors for both diseases are the same. Having unprotected sex, with multiple partners, especially at a young age will increase a woman’s chances of developing both cervical cancer and HPV. Women who smoke and those with a weak immune system may be at a higher risk as well.
Although changes that occur to cervical cells rarely cause noticeable symptoms in women, there are still warning signs that we recommend looking out for. If cells in the cervix mutate and become cancerous, you may notice symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding (including bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause), as well as pelvic pain, pain during sex, and an irregular, watery vaginal discharge.
As we mentioned above, medical advancements have helped women take major strides in preventing and treating cervical cancer. The first step women should take to prevent cervical cancer is to receive an HPV vaccine. Vaccines must be administered between the ages of 9 and 26. Additionally, receiving regular Pap testing (starting at age 21) is extremely important and highly recommended. Pap testing is very effective for noticing changes that occur to cells in the cervix and detecting cervical cancer early while it is still in its most curable stage.
It’s the start of a new year and there is no better time to make your general health and wellness a priority. Cervical cancer can be prevented, but that requires a commitment to attention, understanding, and regular screening appointments. If you would like to learn more about cervical cancer or schedule a screening appointment today, please contact Abraham Family Medicine today. We offer a wide variety of diagnostic screening services, general healthcare, and more at our office is located in Snellville, not far from Grayson.