Thanks to scientific advances, cervical cancer is now the most preventable of all female cancers. Despite this progress, however, each year 14,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and approximately 4,000 lose their lives.
This January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month– a time to spread awareness of the tools at our disposal to prevent cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths. Below, we have outlined some of the most successful prevention tools, common warning signs, and helpful treatment options for cervical cancer.
The most important step you can take to prevent cervical cancer is to receive your HPV shot. The HPV shot is recommended for 11-12 year olds; if you are under the age of 26 and have not received your shot, it is recommended that you get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for everyone 27-45. However, if you are in this age bracket and interested in receiving the vaccine, you should consult your physician.
There are two kinds of screening tests that can help detect cervical cancer early. The first is a pap smear, which women over 21 should receive every 3 years. Pap smears look for cell changes on the cervix which might become cervical cancer if they are not treated properly.
The second kind of test is an HPV test. The HPV test looks for the HPV virus, which can cause these cell changes on the cervix.
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of cervical cancer, including not smoking and always using a condom during sex.
The most common warning signs of cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
- Abnormal discharge with strong odor
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cervical cancer, ask your physician to refer you to a gynecological oncologist, or a doctor who has been trained to treat cancer in the women’s reproductive system. The most common treatment plan for cervical cancer includes:
- Surgery, during which doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation.
- Chemotherapy, which uses special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer.
- Radiation, which uses high-energy rays to kill the cancer.
To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.