8 Things You Should Know About Cervical Cancer

The cervix is a small organ that attaches the vagina to the uterus. One out of every 156 women in the United States will develop cancer of the cervix in her lifetime. These are some important facts about cervical cancer risks, prevention and diagnosis.

1. The human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer.

Many different types of HPV exist, and you can contract HPV through sexual contact with an infected person. Most sexually active people will get an HPV infection at least once in their lives and never know it.

The majority of HPV infections will go away on their own without any complications. But certain types of HPV are considered high risk. A high-risk HPV infection of your cervix can last for many years. This causes your cervical cells to become abnormal, which can lead to cervical cancer.

 

Cervical Cancer Diagram

2. Cervical cancer is not the same as abnormal cervical cells

Your cervix can have abnormal cells present that are not cancerous. These cells are often due to an HPV infection, which can be either benign or potentially serious, depending on the type of HPV.

A Pap test is a procedure that collects cervical cells in order to find out if any abnormal cells are present. If there are, further testing can be done to determine if the cells are pre-cancerous or not.

All women are recommended to get their first Pap test at age 21. How often you should get a Pap test depends on your age and other factors. The National Cancer Institute has full details on who should be screened and when.

3. Youíre more at risk under 50.

The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer are under 50 years old. Around 20 percent of cervical cancers are found in women over 65, although these cancers are rare in women who get tested regularly throughout their lives.

Some additional risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Long-term use of birth control pill (5 or more years)
  • Chlamydia infection
  • Having multiple full-term pregnancies
  • Being overweight

4. Cervical cancer can run in families.

Your chances of developing cervical cancer are 2 to 3 times higher if your mother or sister had it. Some research suggests this may be due to an inherited condition that prevents some women from fighting off HPV infection compared to others. It could also relate to the tendency of family members to share one or more of the non-genetic risk factors.

5. Cervical cancer can travel.

Cervical cancer cells can break away from a cervical tumor and travel through your lymph or blood vessels to the lungs, liver or bones.

Thatís why itís important to find cervical cancer as early as possible. Getting regular Pap tests is the best way to diagnose any cellular changes before they become a problem.

6. HPV vaccines can help prevent cervical cancer.

Vaccines are available that can protect against infection with the types of HPV most commonly linked to cancer, as well as some types that can cause anal and genital warts.

The vaccines can only prevent HPV infection. This means you need to get them before becoming exposed to HPV, such as through sexual activity. The American Cancer Society gives details about HPV vaccines and what age they recommend starting.

7. Early cervical cancer has no symptoms.

You can have active cervical cancer and not even know it. And even if a cancer grows larger, the symptoms are not always obvious. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of cervical cancer:

  • Bleeding in between regular menstrual periods
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Heavier or longer menstrual periods
  • Bleeding after going through menopause
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex

8. Cervical cancer is often curable when caught early.

The early stages of cervical cancer have a 5-year survival rate of 93 percent. This means that 93 out of 100 women will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. Whereas, the advanced stages of cervical cancer only have a 16 percent survival rate after 5 years.

Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The choice of treatment typically depends on how advanced the cancer is, whether or not it has spread, and the size of any tumors.

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56 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S11 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Chun Lai T
Chun Lai T11 months ago

thanks for the information

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Melania P
Melania P11 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Janet B
Janet Babout a year ago

Thanks

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LF F
LF Fabout a year ago

Wonder why they can't make a vaccine for other ages. Seems like they could since they do for the tetanus injections.

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Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Important Information. thanks.

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Siyus C
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus C
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer F
Jennifer Fabout a year ago

Excellent advice for all women! I still get paps every 3 to 5 years and had my first colonoscopy last year. We have to take care of ourselves!

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