January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, “Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests).”
We want to do our part to bring awareness to this disease by taking a moment to discuss what cervical cancer is and the importance of your regular physical exam for early detection/diagnosis.
Understanding Cervical Cancer and the Importance of Your Regular Physical for Early Diagnosis
What is Cervical Cancer and What Causes it?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.”
The causes of cervical cancer are similar to the cause of many other cancers, in which healthy cells develop mutations in their DNA. These mutations tell a healthy cell to grow and multiply out of control. Unlike healthy cells, these cells do not die and can accumulate into a mass (tumor).
What are the Symptoms?
Unfortunately in the early stages of cervical cancer, there are generally no symptoms, which makes your annual physical exam so important for early detection of the disease. More advanced cases of the disease will include symptoms such as; vaginal bleeding after intercourse, bleeding between periods, bleeding after menopause, bloody vaginal discharge with a foul odor, and pain during intercourse.
A majority of cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, therefore, safe sex is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors include; having a large number of sexual partners increases your risk of exposure to HPV, having sex at a young age, weakened immune system, and smoking.
HPV Vaccine - There is a vaccine for HPV and you can discuss this with your doctor if it is appropriate for you.
Routine Pap Smear Test - A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that's at the top of your vagina. This procedure is performed at your routine physical visits and can detect cancer early. Giving you a greater chance for a cure.
Most cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. Protect yourself by always practicing safe sex - using condoms every time.
If you are a smoker quit today!
Schedule Your Physical Today
Early diagnosis is imperative with a cancer such as cervical, which has no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Don’t put if off, schedule your physical today!
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