Medically Reviewed by Dr. K. on May 18, 2021.
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Cervical cancer is one of the only cancers that can be prevented nearly entirely. It all boils down to preventing the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Cervical cancer is most often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, that is not necessarily the origin of the illness. Many women are infected with HPV yet may not grow cervical cancer.
Keep up with your medical visits if you’re sexually active. Until cancer develops, the Pap or HPV checks will detect irregular cells in your cervix.
You may even consider having an HPV vaccine. It focuses on some of the more dangerous HPV strains.
You should also make lifestyle decisions that will reduce the odds of contracting HPV and, as a result, your risk of cervical cancer.
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
Precancer often has no symptoms or signs. Early-stage cervical cancer is characterised by the presence of symptoms. The signs of advanced cancer or cancer that has spread to other areas of the body can be more serious, based on which tissues and organs have been affected. A symptom could be caused by anything other than cancer, which is why patients can seek medical help if they have a new symptom that does not go away.
Any of the following could be signs or symptoms of cervical cancer:
- Blood spots (spotting) or bleeding (light or heavy) between or following periods
- Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than your usual cycle
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination
- Increased vaginal discharge, more than usual
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain
The Pap Test
Your gynaecologist will take a sample of your cervical cells during a Pap test to check for cancerous cells. Those “precancerous" cells will or may not become a threat in the future. To be sure, it’s better to find out and get rid of them.
Starting at age 21, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises that women have a Pap test every three years before they reach the age of 65.
The HPV test is used in combination with the PAP test to increase the likelihood of detecting cervical cancer. For women over 30, the USPTF suggests screening every five years for either the HPV test alone or a mixture of the PAP and HPV test.
The HPV Vaccine
While there are over 100 different types of HPV, two of them (types 16 and 18) are responsible for more than half of all cervical cancers. They are the ones that are targeted by the HPV vaccine.
Before you start sexual contact, it’s best to get the HPV vaccine. As a result, they will be used for children as young as nine years old. Individuals under the age of 15 who begin any HPV sequence need just two cumulative doses rather than the usual three.
Prior to sexual intercourse, all men and women should be given HPV. It is more frequently given before the age of 26, although it has been licenced for use up to the age of 45.
What Else You Can Do
Whether you’re already sexually involved or too old for the vaccine, keeping up with your doctor’s appointments is your only defence.
When you have fewer sex partners, you’re far less likely to contract HPV. They may also have a limited number of partners so that they are less likely to expose you to HPV.
It may also be beneficial to:
- Make an effort to maintain a healthier weight.
- Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid taking birth control medication for a long period (if that fits your family planning).
- Quit smoking. Cervical cancer is twice as common in smokers.
Referenced on 3/5/2021
- American Cancer Society: “Cervical Cancer: Detailed Guide,” “HPV and HPV Testing.”
- National Institute of Health: “NIH Fact Sheet: Cervical Cancer.”
- CDC: “Cervical Cancer is Preventable,” “What Should I Know About Screening?” and “Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Questions and Answers.”