The following article was contributed by Jerri Guo.
Cervical and other Gynecological Cancers: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/symptoms.htm
Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.
In addition to HPV, other things can increase your risk of cervical cancer. They include:
- Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
- Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).
- Having given birth to three or more children.
There are several ways to treat cervical cancer. The treatment depends on the type of cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
- Surgery: Doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may cause side effects, but these often get better or go away when chemotherapy is over. Chemotherapy drugs may be given in several forms, including pills or through an IV (intravenous) injection.
- Radiation: Radiation uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to try to kill the cancer cells and stop them from spreading. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is.
Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer:
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. You should start getting Pap tests at age 21.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
Getting an HPV Vaccine
Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines also can be given to girls as young as 9 years of age. It is recommended that females get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible. It is important to note that even women who are vaccinated against HPV need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.
More Steps to Help Prevent Cervical Cancer
These things may also help lower your risk for cervical cancer:
- Don’t smoke.
- Use condoms during sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.