Cervical cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer in women. The American Cancer Society's estimates suggest that there would be about 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer and more than 4,000 cervical cancer deaths by end of 2018. The point is, cervical cancer is a real threat. Fortunately, its mortality rate and occurrence can be reduced through awareness of risk factors, warning signs, and preventative measures.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Cancers do not have definitive causes. However, they do have risk factors that can increase your chances of getting the disease. Nonetheless, having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean you will get the disease, but it’s critical to know the following risk factors to remain proactive in prevention:
- The HPV Infection - The human papillomavirus is the most significant cervical cancer risk factor. There are over 100 forms of the virus. Those associated with cervical cancers are HPV16 and HPV18.
- Smoking - Tobacco has several chemicals associated with many different cancers, including cervical cancer. Second-hand smoke can also be a contributing factor.
- Compromised Immune System - People with a low immune system — such as individuals with HIV — are not able to fight HPV infections, which can increase their chances of getting cervical cancer. Also, the immune system helps fight cancerous cells. Therefore, in people with HIV, the pre-cancers may develop into invasive cancer at a faster rate.
- Long-Term Use of Oral Contraceptives - The risk of cancer of the cervix increases with long-term use of oral contraceptives. Stopping the consumption of oral birth control can reduce the risk.
- Socioeconomic Factors - Women in social and economic groups that have less access to health care and cancer screenings are at a greater risk of cervical cancer. According to statistics, such populations may include the Black and Hispanic communities.
- Diethylstilbestrol - DES was used during childbirth to prevent miscarriage until 1970. Women exposed to the drug are at risk of developing a rare type of cervical cancer.
- A Family History of Cervical Cancer - Cancer of the cervix may run in the family.
Cervical Cancer Warning Signs
During the early stages, cervical cancers and cervical pre-cancers have no apparent symptoms, such as pain. Therefore, it is essential that women go for regular tests and screening. Here are some early signs of cervical cancer:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding - this may include bleeding between menstrual periods, periods that last long, heavier than usual menstrual flow, bleeding after sex, and bleeding after menopause.
- Pain during sex.
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor.
- Pelvic pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Appendix pain.
- Leg pain and swelling.
- Unexplained weight loss and reduced appetite.
Tips For Cervical Cancer Prevention
There is no formula for completely avoiding cervical cancer. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting the disease. They include the following:
- Cervical Cancer Screenings - Cancer screening helps detect pre-cancers before they develop into invasive cancer. The screening is done through a Pap test — also known as a Pap smear. According to the American Cancer Society, most invasive cervical cancers are diagnosed in women who do not participate in regular Pap test screenings.
- HPV Vaccination - HPV is one of the highest risk factors for cervical cancer. While the HPV vaccine will not cure cervical cancer, it can help prevent it. Talk to your doctor if you may be a candidate for this vaccine.
- Practice Safe Sex - HPV, a cervical cancer risk factor, is transmitted through sex. Therefore, practicing safe sex reduces the chances of contracting HPV.
- Quit Smoking - Smoking is a risk factor for most types of cancers, including cervical cancer. Also, smoking can make recovery from an HPV infection more problematic.
At Parish Healthcare cancer care programs are recognized by the Commission on Cancer. We are proud to offer our patients cervical cancer screenings, treatments and care by using the latest technologies. Contact us
today for more information about cervical cancer or any other cancer care concerns you may have.