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Many people welcome the new year with new health goals. It is an ideal time to reflect and examine your own health. Taking this into consideration, January is the perfect month to host cervical cancer awareness. Each year, about 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Despite these statistics, cervical cancer is undoubtedly preventable with the right vaccination and proper screening. In this post, we are going to define cervical cancer, and show you the ways you can not only treat this disease, but avoid it as well.
What is Cervical Cancer?
When the cells within your body begin growing at an uncontrollable rate, they become cancerous. These cells can expand to other parts of your body. Cervical cancer begins at the lower part of the uterus, which is called the cervix. The cervix joins the birth canal with the female body. The cervix consists of two different types of cells, glandular cells, and squamous cells.
These two types of cervix cells meet in an area of the body known as the transformation area. This area is where the cancerous cells begin to develop. Normal cervix cells do not just promptly become cancerous. They begin showing pre-cancerous changes, which can potentially turn into full-fledged cancerous cells. However, in most cases they do not turn cancerous at all. Pre-cancerous changes in cells have the tendency to fade away on their own. In certain cases, however, these changes will become cancerous as rapidly as within a year.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is found in 99 percent of cervical cancer cases, making it the leading cause of the disease. While there are 100 different types of HPV viruses, most of them are low risk, making them very unlikely to become cancerous. According to research , by age 50, at least 80 percent of women in the United States had some type of HPV infection.
Most HPV viruses will heal on their own in a very short period of time independent of any medical treatment. While a great number of HPVs are low risk, there are a few HPVs, such as HPV-16 and HPV-18, which lead to normal cells developing abnormal changes. These abnormal changes in cells may overtime lead to cervical cancer.
What Are the Symptoms?
- > Abnormal bleeding, including bleeding after intercourse or after menopause.
- > Bleeding in between periods.
- > Longer or heavier menstrual periods than usual.
- > Abnormally frequent urination.
- > Pelvic pain during urination.
- > Pelvic pain during intercourse.
Screening of Pre-Cancerous Cells
Screening is the most effective way to determine if there are any existing pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. Routine health checkups will often screen for the presence of these cells. In order to determine if there are any abnormal cells, medical personnel will administer two different tests.
An HPV test is used to detect any HPV infections, abnormal cervix cells being a part of it. The pap test collects and checks cell samples of the inner and outer areas of your cervix to determine if there are any that are potentially cancerous. If you believe you have any of the listed symptoms, we encourage speaking with a medical specialist.
Ways to Limit Risk
- > Use condoms
- > Don’t smoke
- > Limit sexual activity
- > HPV vaccines
- > Wash hands
Cervical cancer treatment is tailored to the stage of the disease. Treatment options are referred to patients based on the appropriate needs of each individual. Surgical procedures are used in early stages. Radiation procedures along with chemo are used for further stages. Full blown chemo therapy is used at the most advanced and severe stages of the disease.
Before you decide on any treatment options, it is best to have a full understanding of the procedure, as well as discussing it with family and friends.