Understanding Cervical Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. However, women of any age are still at risk. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors can help with early detection. Here’s what every woman should know.
Early signs of cervical cancer
Detecting cervical cancer at an early stage is key to increasing survival. It is very important to know the following symptoms.
Vaginal bleeding (after sex, between periods or after menopause)
Abnormal vaginal discharge (heavy or foul-smelling)
Pain during intercourse
Lower back pain
Leg swelling and pain
Unexplained weight loss
Loss of appetite
Cervical cancer risk factors
There is no sure way to know what causes certain types of cancer, but there are risk factors that increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. Understanding the following risk factors can help you make healthy changes to lower your risk.
HPV – human papilloma virus is one of the risk factors of cervical cancer. There are more than 100 types of HPV infection, but HPV16 and HPV18 are most commonly associated with cervical cancer.
Smoking. Chemicals in cigarettes increase the risk of cervical cancer in women who smoke. Passive smoking also plays a role.
Weakened immune systems – HIV-infected women are unable to effectively fight off HPV infection, which increases the risk of developing cervical cancer more quickly.
Lack of access to health care – Women who do not have access to regular health care and are not screened for cancer may be at greater risk.
Family history – having a family member diagnosed with cervical cancer is a risk factor.
Prevention of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer cannot be completely prevented, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Here are some tips:
Cervical Cancer Screening – Regular Pap tests can help with early detection.
Vaccination against HPV. Because HPV is one of the main risk factors for cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine can help prevent it. Talk to your doctor to find out if you are a candidate for the HPV vaccine.
Practice safe sex – HPV is sexually transmitted. Practicing safe sex can reduce the risk of HPV.
Quit Smoking – Smoking is a risk factor for many types of cancer, including cervical cancer. Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk.
If you are concerned about your risk of cervical cancer, we are here to help. To learn more about cervical cancer treatment and prevention, call Parrish Cancer Center at 321-529-6202. Our oncologists are here to help you every step of the way.