Cervical Cancer: What You Need to Know
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time and is most commonly found in women over the age of 50. In light of cervical cancer prevention awareness month (which we observe every May), we’re telling you more about cervical cancer and how you and other women you love can minimize the risk of getting it.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Filipino women. Roughly 7,277 new cases and 3,807 deaths due to cervical cancer are expected to occur every year. The majority of these cases occur in women ages 30-54. Cervical cancer, however, is preventable.
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact. There are many different types of HPV, and not all of them cause cervical cancer.
When you have sex with someone who has HPV, you can contract the virus. If you have multiple sexual partners, your chances of contracting HPV increase. Having multiple sexual partners also increases your risk for other STDs, which can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off HPV.
There are several risk factors for cervical cancer, including
• HPV infection
• Having multiple sexual partners
• Having a weak immune system
There are two main types of cervical cancer.
1. Squamous cell carcinoma
This type of cervical cancer forms in the thin, flat cells that line the cervix. It is the most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 80% of all cases.
This type of cervical cancer forms in the glandular cells of the cervix. It is less common than squamous cell carcinoma, accounting for about 20% of all cases.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina. This may occur after sex, during your period, or in between periods. Other symptoms may include:
• Pelvic pain
• Pain during sex
• Vaginal discharge that is watery, bloody, or has a foul odor
• Difficulty urinating
Who Can I Detect Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer can be detected early with regular Pap tests. A Pap test is a procedure in which a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and examined for abnormalities. If abnormal cells are found, they can be treated before they turn into cancer.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
There are several ways to reduce your risk of cervical cancer, including:
• Get the HPV vaccine
• Quit smoking
• Use condoms during sex
• Limit your number of sexual partners
• Get regular Pap tests
HPV vaccines can help prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to girls and young women before they become sexually active. Make sure you and your loved ones such as your mother, sisters, aunts, and cousins get your shot!
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