Did you know that more than 13,000 women living in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year? Fortunately, while it's relatively common, it's also largely preventable with regular screenings and the HPV vaccination.
Learn what cervical cancer is and what screening modalities are available so you can catch it in its earliest, more treatable stages.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a malignant tumor of the cervix, which is the lowermost part of the uterus.
This type of cancer often presents with no symptoms, particularly in its earliest stages. That's why it's important for women to receive regular cervical cancer screenings, including Pap smears and HPV tests, as directed by a doctor.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
Although cervical cancer often presents without any symptoms, there are some signs associated with later-stage cervical cancer, including:
- Abnormal menstruation
- Heavy periods
- Irregular cycles
- Pelvic pain
- Vaginal discharge
- Weight loss
How can you prevent cervical cancer?
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. Because of this, experts now recommend that young girls receive the HPV vaccination in their preteen years, before any sexual contact occurs.
Beyond the HPV vaccine, it's also vitally important for women to have regular Pap smears as part of their well-woman checkups. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women between ages 21 and 65 have a Pap smear at least every three years. Depending on your specific needs and family history, your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings or co-testing that also includes an HPV test.
If you are a smoker, now is the perfect time to add "quit smoking" to your resolution list. Why? Because smoking can actually double your risk of getting cervical cancer in the future. Talk with a physician who can point you in the right direction of smoking cessation programs so that you can start down the road of living a smoke-free life.
We provide comprehensive care for the Chattanooga community. Visit the Parkridge Medical Center website to learn more about the services we offer.