Causes And Prevention Of Cervical Cancer
Guest post from Dr. Shyamali Singhal, MD
Founder of Hope & Beauty
Each year, more than 13,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Up until recently, cervical cancer was one of the head causes of cancer-caused deaths for women in the United States.
“It’s essential to keep in mind that cervical cancer most often does not have any signs or symptoms in the very early stages,” says Dr. Shyamali Singhal, surgical oncologist and founder of H&B. “That’s why it’s crucial to get cervical cancer screening like the Pap test, in order to detect cancerous or precancerous cells, so it can be caught at an early stage when it can be treated with more success.”
On a global scale, over half a million women get cervical cancer, and more than 300,000 die from the disease yearly. More than 85% of these new cases are in developing countries that don’t have the resources to provide screenings and treatment programs that could catch pre-cancerous lesions before they grow invasive. Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. But the PAP smear, a cytology-based screening that has been vastly successful at diminishing cervical cancer rates in the developed world, is sadly unobtainable in developing countries.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs when cells malignantly change in a women’s cervix, an organ that joins the uterus with the vagina. This cancer can influence the deeper tissues of their cervix and may expand to other parts of the body, often the lungs, liver, bladder, vagina, and rectum.
Most cases of cervical cancer are created by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is easily preventable with a vaccine, if it’s available, that is.
Cervical cancer develops slowly, so there should be enough time to find and treat it before it causes more severe difficulties. Cervical cancer kills fewer and fewer women each year. This is because of improved screening through Pap tests.
Who Is At Most Risk Of Getting Cervical Cancer?
Women 35 to 44 years old are most likely to get cervical cancer. More than 15% of new cases happen to women over age 65., particularly those who didn’t get their regular check-ups.
Another encouraging progress is the development of a very reliable and efficient vaccine that protects against the most frequent strains of HPV. The Gardasil 9 vaccine blocks about 90% of HPV infections that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Broad adoption of this vaccine has the potential to reduce cervical cancer occurrence.
Risk Factors For Cervical Cancer
Even though routine screening can discover most malformations on the cervix before they advance to cancer or cause serious symptoms, cervical cancer seldom gets diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
Besides HPV, there are other things that can increase the risk of cervical cancer. These risks include:
Other infections such as chlamydia
A personal history of dysplasia of the cervix, vagina, or vulva
A family history of cervical cancer
Immune system problems such as HIV/AIDS make it more difficult to resist infections like HPV
Having a mother who took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) during her pregnancy
Age is also an important risk factor. The average age when patients get diagnosed with cervical cancer is as low as 48. Cervical cancer infrequently strikes those younger than 20 years of age.
Finally, everyone who has a cervix is at risk for cervical cancer.
The Prevention Of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is preventable. Here are some of the things that everyone can do to keep their cervix healthy.
Get regular check-ups. Pap tests and HPV tests look for abnormal changes to the cervix, so people can treat them before cancer develops. In general, the first Pap test should be done at age 21, and then every 3-5 years after that. A doctor or nurse will inform patients which tests they need and how often they need them.
People should use condoms or dental dams every time they have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. This assists immensely to lower the chances of spreading HPV during sex.
Smokers should stop smoking. If a person has a high-risk type of HPV and they smoke, they’re more prone to get cervical cancer.
People should get the HPV vaccine and inspire people in their life to do the same. There are 3 brands of the HPV vaccine. All of them are a good guard against HPV types 16 and 18, the 2 kinds that cause most cervical cancer cases. HPV vaccines are administered in a series of 3 turns over 6 months.