This week is Cervical Cancer awareness week. Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When this cell growth starts in the cervix, the area connecting the birth canal to the open part of the uterus, it is called Cervical Cancer. All women are at risk for this type of cancer. It occurs more commonly in women over age thirty. Long lasting infection, Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) infection is the main cause of this cancer. HPV is a common virus passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. At least half of sexually active people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer, which is good news.
How to prevent Cervical Cancer:
- Screening Tests
- HPV Vaccine
If caught early, the cancer is highly treatable allowing for long survival and good quality of life. Pap smear tests performed at ages 21 – 29, if normal, can wait another three years before retesting. In ages, 30-65, talk to your doctor about which tests may be right for your circumstances – Pap smear, HPV test, or both. In both tests, the doctor gets a sample of the external and internal canal. The HPV test is specifically looking for the presence of the virus. In women older than 65, you may not need to be screened any more, if their tests have been normal for several years, or they have had a hysterectomy.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, 14 thousand new cases (aggressive cancer of the cervix) will be diagnosed, and 4280 women will die from the disease.
This type of cancer is usually detected in women between the ages 35 and 44, rarely affecting women under the age of 20. Many older women do not realize the prevalence of the disease is still likely in their older age. More than 20 percent of cases are found in women over 65, however, rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests for screening.
Dr. Pierre-Pierre stresses that protective sex and screenings are in order to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
What are the possible symptoms of this cancer? Check with OB-GYN for discussion and testing if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Any type of irregular bleeding not associated with the menstrual cycle: spotting in between periods, after sexual intercourse or douching, in between periods, or extra long or heavy flows that are not normal to you.
- Uncommon Vaginal discharge,
- Pain during intercourse,
- Bleeding after Menopause
- Unexplained back pain
Dr. will perform a Pap smear, HPV test as well as an endocervical curettage examination and a cone biopsy, all checking the cervix for abnormal areas. A biopsy may need to be performed to examine the tissue under the microscope to determine if there are pre- or cancerous cells found.
After diagnosis, treatment of cervical cancer consists of a multi-disciplinary approach: Surgery, Radiation therapy, and Chemotherapy.