Cervical Cancer: Everything you need to know

Cervical Cancer: Everything you need to know

Posted by DR. DOWSETT on Apr 6 2021, 08:01 AM

Each year, an average of 140 women die from cervical cancer, and 430 women are newly diagnosed with the same in New York City. Cervical cancer can have a significant toll on a woman's reproductive function if it is diagnosed in the later stages. The frightening fact about the disease is that most women who have cervical cancer show no signs or symptoms during the early stages.

Cervical cancer develops when the cells of the cervical lining grow abnormally into cancerous cells. It starts with changes in the cells that can develop from HPV or other types of precancerous cervical cells. Over time, the abnormal cervical tissue can become cancerous. 

Risk Factors

Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S., is the most common cause of cervical cancer too. People with HPV normally don't develop any symptoms but can pass it to others through sexual contact. Sexually active people can get an HPV infection at some point in their lives, but only some women who have it will develop cervical cancer.

The other factors that contribute to the risk of cervical cancer are mentioned below:

  • Smoking.
  • Taking birth control pills for a long period of time - five years or more.
  • A weakened immune system as a result of conditions like HIV.

Reduce your risk

It is advised to follow the below-mentioned practices to reduce the risk of cervical cancer:

  • Quit smoking
  • Follow your health care provider's advice while taking the risks of taking birth control pills.
  • Have regular screening tests to find changes in cells before they turn into cancer.
  • Have an HPV vaccine that helps prevent infection with the types of HPV that can cause cancer.

Limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms during sex can also help lower the rate of cervical cancer.

Diagnosis 

If the development of the abnormal cells is detected and treated early, it can be ensured that cervical cancer does not develop or spread to other parts of your body. Routine cancer screenings are the best way to prevent cervical cancer; the most common screening methods are Pap test and an HPV DNA test. 

A gynecologist performs the Pap test during a gynecologic checkup by scraping a tiny amount of cervical cells for examination under a microscope to test for the HPV virus. Using the test, HPV and precancerous cells can be effectively detected, helping early identification or prevention of the disease. 

HPV DNA test checks the cells for infection with the types of HPV that cause cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends:

  • Women aged between 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years.
  • Women aged between 30 to 65 have a choice of:
  • A Pap test alone every three years.
  • An HPV test alone every five years.
  • A combination of a Pap test and an HPV test every five years.

These recommendations are applicable to women regardless of their sexual history or whether they have been vaccinated against HPV. However, these do not apply to those who have a history of a precancerous cervical lesion or cervical cancer.

Take care of yourself and get yourself checked as per the recommendations. Consult your healthcare provider about cervical cancer screening, its risks and benefits, and when and how often you should get screened.

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