January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
Surepoint Emergency Center wants women to be aware of the fact that cervical cancer can be prevented and treated, but only if you take the steps necessary to get screened and vaccinated. It is estimated that in 2018, more than 13,000 women in the United States will be diagnoses with cervical cancer and unfortunately, more than 4000 women will die from the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer deaths in the US, but these numbers have significantly decreased partially due to preventative care.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
When cancer begins in the cervix, it is referred to as cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is typically caused by HPV, which is a virus that is passed from person to person during intercourse. HPV typically doesn’t cause any symptoms, so it is extremely difficult to know if you have the virus and for most women, the virus will go away on its own; however, if it doesn’t, there is a high risk of cervical cancer developing.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms & Risk Factors
Unlike other forms of cancer, early cervical cancer does not have any obvious physical symptom. However, once cervical cancer has progressed, warning signs will start to appear and when cervical cancer has progressed into other structures, you may have symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding between periods or bleeding during intercourse and/or abnormal discharge throughout your menstrual cycle. There are a number of risk factors that may increase the chance of developing cervical cancer, including:
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
- Human papillomavirus infection
The good news is, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of getting cervical cancer. An annual pap smear is the best tool for the prevention of cervical cancer. There is also a vaccine to prevent against human papillomavirus infections (the leading cause of cervical cancer). Cervarix and Gardasil are vaccines available that will protect girls and women from HPV. It is recommended that you talk with your family physician about the recommended age for getting the HPV vaccine.