According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, 2016 saw nearly 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in the United States alone.
It happens fast, because women with early cervical cancers rarely show symptoms before the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissues. But thanks to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) and the United States Congress, the month of January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month to shine a light on issues related to cervical cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV) and the importance of early detection.
Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer
The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by HPV, which is a group of more than 150 related viruses. The virus can be spread from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact, most often by sexual contact.
Cervical cancer has also been linked to smoking, poor diet, certain sexually transmitted diseases and being overweight. As a result, the best ways to reduce your risks of developing cervical cancer are to live at a healthy weight, not smoke, practice safe sex and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Although symptoms and warning signs for early cervical cancer are rare, screening for pre-cancers before they turn into invasive cancers has proven effective in detecting the disease. Through the Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) and the HPV test, cervical cancer can be found and treated before it becomes life threatening. Additionally, vaccines are available for females ages 9 to 26 years to help prevent infection of HPV-16 and HPV-18, the HPV strains responsible for about 70% of all cervical cancers.
While there’s no treatment for HPV, most genital HPV infections go away with the help of a person’s immune system within two years. Treatment for cervical cancer varies depending on which stage the cancer has reached. Common treatments for cervical cancer include:
Should you be diagnosed, take charge of your own health and arm yourself with knowledge about your diagnosis. You’ll be better prepared to work together with your cancer care team to develop the plan of action that is right for you.
Learn more about Cervical Cancer, HPV disease and Cervical Health Awareness Month by visiting our Online Health Library or the NCCC website. To schedule a preventative screening, checkup or appointment with a women’s health expert, contact University of Maryland Community Medical Group – Women’s Health Practices today.