The Lowdown on Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer is a type of cancer that develops when abnormal cells grow out of control in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. This cancer can be cured if found in the early stage. It is usually detected through a Pap test.

Causes
Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus that causes genital warts. This can be acquired through sexual contact with another person who has it. There are many types of HPV but not all of them cause cervical cancer. It's also possible for one to have HPV for many years and not be aware of it since it can stay in the body for a long time and lead to cervical cancer years after one was first infected.

Symptoms
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- unexplained change in menstrual cycle
- bleeding during sex or when you put in a diaphragm
- pain during sex
- vaginal discharge with blood

Abnormal cell changes in the cervix that are not cancerous usually do not exhibit any symptoms.

Diagnosis
Pap test is a part of regular pelvic exam. During this test, the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the cervix surface. This is important to detect any changes in the cells. If the test shows that there are abnormal cell changes, other tests would be in order to look for cancer cells in the cervix. Your doctor may also do a Pap test and biopsy in case you have cervical cancer symptoms such as pain or bleeding during sex.

Treatments
Fortunately, cervical cancer can be cured if detected early. In fact, if caught in the very early stage, you can still have children after treatment.

- Treatment options include hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes. This can be done with or without the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

- Other forms of treatment include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Depending on the cancer stage, you may have one or a combination of the above-mentioned treatments.

Prevention
- The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get regular Pap test. This will enable you to find out if there are cervical cell changes that can develop into cervical cancer. This gives you a chance to treat abnormal cell changes and prevent the cancer.

- If you are 26 years old or younger, you can also get an HPV shot. Cervarix and Gardasil are two vaccines that protect against the two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil protects against two additional HPV that bring genital warts. The HPV vaccine is given in three shots over a period of six months.

- Abstinence from sex is another way to prevent this cancer since the virus that causes it is spread through sexual contact. If you're going to have sex, you must use protection such as condoms. It's also best to have only one sex partner to decrease the risk of getting the HPV.

 


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