Cervical Cancer: How to Help Prevent It and Not to Overlook

Although efforts are being made to raise awareness about different forms of cancer and standard ways to prevent them that medicine offers, there is still a lot of work to do, as many Americans do not know what the symptoms of cervical cancer are, and what the two ways to routinely diagnose it are. It this article, we will discuss cervical cancer symptoms and standard vaccines and tests.

Image Credit: sunshineclinic.org

Cervical cancer: what it is and how do I know if I have it

The body part we’re going to talk about is cervix. It’s an area of the uterus opening into the vagina. Sometimes the cells comprising the cervix start growing out of control, and it results in a tumor.

Most cervical cancers are not difficult to treat, provided the treatment is started at an early stage of cancer progression. That is why modern medicine considers cervical cancer to be a preventable disease. However, many people do not want to experience such health exams due to a variety of reasons, with embarrassment being the most popular one. Also, in some less developed countries health exams of this kind are unavailable. That is why we’re talking about symptoms, because regular examinations can reduce the chance of having to rush to the nearest clinic when you feel that something is wrong.

Cervical cancer is treacherous, as symptoms are there only when the cancer has already developed: there is nothing to complain about when cervical cells become abnormal; it’s only when cervical cancer has already attacked your uterus that you start feeling that there’s something wrong with your body. Among the symptoms characteristic of cervical cancer are:

  • Bleeding. It’s normal when periods are concerned, but all other kinds of bleeding from the uterus are a warning sign. Some women with the disease report bleeding after having sex. Post-menopausal women should be especially careful, as bleeding after menopause definitely requires attention of a gynecologist.
  • Pain. It can be felt at different times: sometimes it is not associated with any particular actions (say, you can be watching TV and start feeling pain in the pelvis or your lower belly), but in some cases pain is felt during sex.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge. If you see that the fluid is not normal, i.e. there are blood traces, or it changes its color or smell, you should consult a gynecologist, because such changes can be caused by a variety of diseases and infections.

What ways of prevention does modern medicine offer?

The routine health exams include two means of diagnosing whether you have cervical cancer and helping you reduce the chances of having it. Both are related to HPV.

In most cases, there is human papillomavirus, often abbreviated as HPV, behind the issue. It is transmitted via sexual contact, and there is a variety of types of this virus. Not all of them result in cervical cancer, but some of them do.

That is why it is recommended that every woman aged 21-65 has a Pap test every three years. Pap Smears are a good way to determine whether there are processes in your cervix that can lead to cervical cancer, or detect the cancer itself while it’s still at an early stage of development. It is capable of detecting abnormal cells and thus helping the woman not to wait until the tumor is there and the symptoms start raging. As it’s been noted, the disease is usually not difficult to treat if caught early.

The second means of prevention recommended by official medical organizations is the HPV vaccine. Children aged 11-12 years can receive 2 doses 6-12 months apart in order to help the body avoid HPV infection. It is said to be very effective, but many Americans still do not know about it or do not want their children to receive it because of myths stopping them from using the vaccine. Some believe that it contains toxins, other are sure the vaccine can cause fertility problems. However, such myths are not based on facts, and misinformation is one of the key obstacles. Besides, the vaccine supplies are limited, and in many countries it’s very difficult to get. Despite the vaccine being there for quite a long time, even in developed countries not all girls receive it.

The American Cancer Society has addressed some of the common myths to promote further usage of the vaccine, and recommends that every woman does not skip her regular exams and Pap Smears, as this set of measures can help catch cervical cancer early.

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