January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month in the United States. Most cases of cervical cancer in women are avoidable with simple screening tests. See below as we look into the different testing methods, explain the condition, and detail how you can avoid it.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow and spread through the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer is most often caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).
You can contract HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has already come in contact with the virus. HPV cells can be found on the surface of the skin or on most surfaces, such as the vagina, cervix, vulva, inner foreskin, and the urethra of the penis.
However, there are many different types of the HPV virus and not all of them cause cervical cancer. For example, some cause genital warts but others may not cause any symptoms at all.
It is important to remember that most sexually active adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their life. This is to say that HPV is an extremely common virus, some doctors would go so far as to say that it’s almost as common as the cold virus.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 79 million people are currently infected with HPV in the United States, and about 14 million people in the US get a new HPV infection every year. So, as a woman, it is imperative that you are proactive and undertake screenings on a regular schedule.
Cervical cancer is virtually almost always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening. Screening can find changes in the cervix before the cancer develops, meaning that you can find cervical cancer early, when it’s still small and has not spread. This allows for quicker and more effective treatment to take place.
Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. This has changed in recent years, due to more advanced screening programs. Still, nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. There is always more we can do to spread the word about cervical screening.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Abnormal cervical cell changes rarely cause symptoms, this is why it is so important to get screened regularly. You may experience symptoms if those cell changes change and develop into cervical cancer. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
- Bleeding from the vagina that is abnormal.
- Vaginal discharge that isn’t normal.
- Pain in the lower belly or pelvis.
- Pain during sex.
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, you need to get tested immediately either through your family physician, clinic, or via LetsGetChecked. By getting tested early, you put yourself in the best possible situation to understand your body and if there is an issue, you can deal with it instantly.
What’s the Difference Between a HPV Test and Pap Test?
As HPV is a virus, the HPV test checks for the presence of the virus and not changes in the cell. Unlike the Pap test, the HPV can be done from the comfort of your home. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are most commonly linked to the development of cervical cancer.
Any woman who has been sexually active should get tested. The only way to avoid sexually transmitted infections is to practice safe sex. This is done by using condoms and having regular sexual health screenings.
A Pap test is used to find cell changes or abnormal cells in the cervix, these cells may be pre-cancer or cancerous. Cells are lightly scraped off the cervix and are analysed in a laboratory to determine if the cells are normal or not.
It is important to note that the HPV test is NOT a replacement for the Pap test. They are both important tests for monitoring your cervical health.
How Is Cervical Cancer Treated?
The treatment for most stages of cervical cancer includes surgery (such as a hysterectomy), chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. With cervical cancer being easily preventable in its earliest stages, the most importance thing you can do is be proactive and get tested on a regular basis.
Should You Get Tested for HPV?
It is recommended that if you are sexually active that you have HPV test done regularly. If you are concerned or curious about getting tested, you can visit LetsGetChecked.com and talk to one of our nurses via our Live Chat service or purchase one of our at-home HPV tests.
Our medical director, Dr. Dominic Rowley, recently published a video on the causes of cervical cancer and the importance of HPV testing. Check it out below.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC): www.cdc.gov