5 Things You Need To Know About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer can be treated easily if diagnosed in time. Here are 5 things every woman should know about cervical cancer.
Early cervical cancer has no symptoms
- Early cervical cancer has no symptoms
- Abnormal bleeding is a sign of cervical cancer
- Pap test help identify early cervical cancer
Cervical cancer affects the entrance of the uterus. It occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Cervix is a narrow neck-like passage at the lower end of the uterus. In India 122,844 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and 67,477 die from the disease. It is the second most prevalent cancer in women aged 15 to 44 years. Though it is at a declining trend in India, it still continues to be a major public health problem.
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1. It is caused by human papillomavirus
Human Papillomavirus or HPV are a group of more than 150 related viruses and causes more than 90% of the cases of cervical cancer. Though most people who have had HPV do not develop cancer. HPV can be contracted through sexual contact with an infected person. HPV vaccines protect against, between two and seven high risk strains of this group of viruses, preventing up to 90% of the cervical cancer.
2. Pap test is a benefactor
Papanicolaou test or Pap test is a screening procedure for cervical cancer. It finds changes in the cervix before the cancer even develops. Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines suggest that a woman should start screening for cervical cancer at the age of 21, regardless of how sexually active she is. Between 21 and 30, a Pap test every three years is beneficial to keep the cancer at bay. Since the introduction of the Pap tests, death rates have gone down by 50%.
Unlike popular belief, the pap test, though a good screening test to identify early and pre-cancer developments, produces false negative in up to 50% of the cases of cervical cancer. Confirmation of cervical cancer or pre-cancer requires a biopsy of the cervix. Colposcopy is done to highlight abnormal cells in the surface of the cervix, It estimates the estimate of disease severity.
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4. More at risk under 50
Cancer in women tends to occur more in midlife. It rarely develops in women younger than 20, unless sexually active or pregnant. Major risk factors include:
- Weakened immune system
- HIV damages a woman's immune system and puts them at a high risk for HPV infection
- Chlamydia infection
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Long term use of oral contraceptives
- Multiple full time pregnancies
5. Early cervical cancer shows no symptoms
You can have an active cervical cancer and not even know about it. Studies show that early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Thus, having a pap test always helps in predicting it. Some mild symptoms that might go unnoticed of cervical cancer are:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Pelvic pains
- Foul smelling discharge
- Bleeding after sex
- Bleeding between regular menstrual periods
Recommend a doctor if you have a group of these symptoms. Treatment for cervical cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, biological therapy or interferon.
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