January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is a preventable and treatable disease, but early detection is key to improving outcomes for those who are diagnosed.
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
HPV is very common, and most people who are sexually active will be exposed to it at some point in their lives. In most cases, the body’s immune system is able to clear the infection, but in some cases, it can lead to the development of cervical cancer.
The most common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer include:
* Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause
* Unusual vaginal discharge
* Pelvic pain or pressure
* Pain during intercourse
It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s important to see a healthcare provider if you experience any of them.
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12. It is also recommended for anyone up to age 26 who did not receive the vaccine when they were younger.
The most effective way to detect cervical cancer early is through regular screening tests. The Pap test (also called a Pap smear) is a screening test that looks for abnormal cells on the cervix. The HPV test is a screening test that looks for the presence of the HPV virus on the cervix. Both tests can be done during a pelvic exam. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women ages 21-29 should have a Pap test every 3 years, women ages 30-65 should have a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years. Women over age 65 who have had regular Pap test results in the past 10 years and have no history of cervical cancer can stop getting screened.
If cervical cancer is detected early, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used. The choice of treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health.
Cervical cancer is a preventable and treatable disease, but early detection is key to improving outcomes for those who are diagnosed. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. By getting vaccinated against HPV, getting regular screening tests, and knowing the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, you can take steps to protect yourself from this disease. If you have any concerns or questions, please consult with your healthcare provider or Ackerman Cancer Center physicians.