Every year, at least 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the US alone. And if you know someone who had to go through the pain associated with cervical cancer or any other kind of cancer, you would do anything in your power to prevent it from affecting you or your loved ones, right? While there are things that are beyond us, it makes sense to try your best to protect yourself. Also, cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that is highly preventable and treatable.
And thanks to technological advancements, there are vaccinations (recently developed to be used by women up to 42 years), as well as screening options, prevention and treatment are closer to home.
Understanding cervical cancer
It starts from the cells lining the lower parts of the uterus or the walls of the cervix. At first, you have normal healthy cells which differentiate into pre-cancerous then cancerous cells. A pap smear detects this cellular differentiation. Wondering what causes the differentiation? The virus, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are several variations of the HPV virus, and it is found on the skin, in the throat, anus, mouth, and the vagina. HPV causes warts. But, in the cervix or lower part of the uterus, it can easily drive the differentiation of cells to cause cancer, especially if you have a sexually transmitted infection.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
How to protect yourself
HPV remains the leading cause of cervical cancer. Medical breakthroughs have led to the development of cervical cancer vaccines which protect against cancer-causing HPV. The vaccines are safe, licensed, and effective. Since the introduction of the vaccines for girls as young as 11 years, there’s been a dramatic decline in cervical cancer.
Go for Screening Regularly
Prevention is better than cure; in this case, debilitating pain. So, you should visit your gynecologist for screening regularly. The precancerous cells or cancerous cells can be eliminated easily if they are detected early. Pap smears are the main form of screening, and they are the most effective. The tests are run and results ascertained based on your age and history.
Know your risk factors
The main risk factors that put you at a higher risk of getting cervical cancer include your age, herpes, smoking, HPV infection, immune-deficiencies, oral contraceptives, and your race and ethnicity.
You might not want to hear this, but cervical cancer is prevalent among Hispanic, black and American-Indian women in their 30s.
Since the virus is sexually transmitted, you need to use a rubber. Even though it won’t prevent cervical cancer, a condom lowers your risk of getting cervical cancer.
Make lifestyle changes
According to gynecologists, medical device consultants, and oncologists, if you are sexually active and wish to protect yourself, you should first have one or few sexual partners. You also need to make lifestyle changes like:
- Eating more fruits and veggies
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not using birth control pills for too long
- Reduce or stop smoking.
Lastly, you should educate yourself about the potential risk, take control of your life, and stay updated on the issue.