What You Should Know About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. It is the only gynecological cancer that can be prevented through regular screening. Cervical cancer starts out as abnormal cellular changes in the cervix, the part of the uterus that opens to the vagina. Cervical cancer is slow-growing and can be caught early with regular Pap tests.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Since most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer can now be prevented for most women by getting the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 26. For those who did not get the vaccine and were exposed to HPV (an extremely common STD), annual Pap tests should identify cellular changes in cervical tissue before they become cancerous. Other risk factors include smoking, HIV infections, and beginning sexual intercourse at a young age. So prevention should include educating girls and young women about the risks of sexual activity. Smokers should quit smoking.
Common symptoms of cervical cancer include bleeding after intercourse, excessive discharge and abnormal bleeding between periods, pelvic pain, bleeding after menopause, painful urination, and back pain. In its early stages, however, there are usually no signs or symptoms, which is why regular screening is important to detect it.
The earlier cervical cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully. Once it spreads to other parts of the pelvis or abdomen, it gets much harder to treat.
If cervical cancer is caught early, it can be treated with radiotherapy, cryotherapy, laser treatment, or chemotherapy, and it may be possible to remove all the cancerous tissue in one treatment if the cancer is confined to the cervix. Later stages of cervical cancer involve other organs and will require more aggressive treatments, including hysterectomy, removal of other organs, and extensive chemotherapy.
Browse through the HysterSisters GYN Cancer Articles articles for helpful tips, information and encouragement: Ovarian Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Uterine Cancer, Endometrial Cancer, Vaginal Cancer.
This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support. Reprinted with permission: Cervical Cancer Fact Sheet