The National Cervical Cancer Coalition has marked January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month the NCCC will be campaigning to help educate on issues related to cervical cancer, HPV, and early detection.
The CDC defines cervical cancer as cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of uterus that connects with the birth canal. The NCCC warns that 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and more than 4,000 will die. 99% of cervical cancers are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Human papillomavirus is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The NCCC says “by age 50 approximately 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV”. HPV is spread through skin to skin contact and has over 100 different strands. Only two types of HPV can actually cause cervical cancer. Most infections clear up on their own within two years. Women who have a persistent infection are considered to be at a higher risk to develop cervical cancer.
Symptoms and Screening
For many, early stages of cervical cancer cause no symptoms and an advanced disease has symptoms that are similar to other common health problems. Cervical cancer typically takes 10 to 20 years to develop, meaning those who are no longer sexually active are able to develop cervical cancer. This makes regular Pap and HPV screenings so important. Advanced cancer may cause abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain unrelated to menstruation, heavy unusual discharge, urinary frequency, and painful urination.
Prevention and Treatment
3 vaccines for HPV are currently available for men and women. The vaccines can help protect against different strains of HPV, cervical cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts. The vaccines protect against 70% of cancer causing HPV strains. For more information on HPV vaccines, their side effects, and who should get them please ask your doctor or visit http://www.nccc-online.org/. Treatment and prognosis for cervical cancer depends on a few factors. Typically, the womans age, health, stage of cancer, tumor size, and desire for future children are all taken into consideration. Treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. For more information on cancer treatment you can speak with your doctor, or visit http://www.cancer.gov/.