Did you know that more than 11,000 women in the United States develop cervical cancer each year?
Understanding cervical cancer begins with the knowledge of where it’s located, how it’s caused, and how it’s treated. Cancer is a disease in which the cells in your body grow out of control and lead to tumors. Cervical cancer is caused by cells in the cervix, the lower narrow portion of the uterus, that grow abnormally.
The main cause of cervical cancer can be linked to the Human Papillomavirus also known as HPV. This virus has more than 200 types, 13 of which are known to cause cervical cancer. These 13 cancer causing types are responsible for 9 out of 10 cervical cancer cases. While most HPV infections resolve within 1-2 years, the body’s immune system is sometimes unable to rid itself of the infection. This allows it to linger, placing women at risk to develop cervical cancer later in life.
Cervical cancer often begins asymptomatically but when symptoms do appear, it is usually in the form of abnormal bleeding. This bleeding can occur in between menstrual cycles, after intercourse, or even after menopause. While these symptoms are often unrelated to cancer, early detection of cervical cancer is crucial and any concerns should be immediately reported to your physician.
Cervical cancer usually develops slowly and over time, so speaking openly with your healthcare provider about symptoms you experience, along with undergoing routine screenings is key. There are multiple ways to screen for cervical changes that could indicate cancer:
· Pap Test- this test is often called the “pap smear” and is the best way to identify problems with your cervix early. The Pap Test involves taking a scraping of cells from the cervix and sending them to the lab for analysis. Experts can identify not only cancerous, but precancerous cells under a specialized microscope.
· HPV Test- HPV is spread through sexual contact and many HPV infections resolve independently within a year or two. Cervical changes that lead to cervical cancer often take 10+ years to develop so this test is not indicated for routine use in those under 30 years of age. An HPV test can be performed independently or in conjunction with the pap smear and is used to indicate the presence of the Human Papillomavirus rather than cancer cells.
As we live in a world with healthcare disparities and the fear of the unknown is ever-present, it is more important now than ever to equip yourself with the power of knowledge. A knowledgeable healthcare provider is the best source of information to address your questions or concerns related to HPV or cervical cancer.
The most personal aspect of your life is your health and we here at Ms.Medicine believe you deserve the best! You deserve a physician who is specialty trained in women’s health, who practices evidence-based medicine, and offers cutting edge technology alongside exemplary customer service. We invite you to experience the Ms.Medicine difference and book a women’s health consult today!