January rings in the new year and also Cervical Cancer Awareness month. In 2018 alone, 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed1. To raise awareness, organizations across the country will put on educational programming and increase access to routine screenings. At Robin Care we wanted to do our part by sharing important facts on cervical cancer screening and prevention.
Let’s start with the basics:
Where is the Cervix?
The cervix is located in the lower part of the uterus. It connects the uterus to the vagina which then leads outside of the body.
What Can I do to Prevent Cervical Cancer?
The most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous cells. To reduce your risk of getting this type of cancer, there are two main strategies:
- Find and treat the pre-cancerous cells before they become cancerous
- Prevent the pre-cancerous cells from forming in the first place
Finding It Early
According to the American Cancer society, the most important thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer is to be tested according to their guidelines. The Pap test, or Pap smear, is the most common procedure for finding pre-cancerous cells. It is a quick test that is performed by scraping cells off the cervix and examining them to determine if cancer or pre-cancer exists.
Preventing Pre-Cancerous Cells
To prevent pre-cancer from forming, here are some steps you can take2:
- Getting an HPV vaccine
- Following Testing Guidelines for HPV
- Not Smoking
- Using Condoms
What are the Signs of Cervical Cancer?
The difficult thing about cervical cancer detection is that in many cases a patient will not have any symptoms until the disease has spread past the cervix. For those who do experience symptoms, they can include bleeding, spotting or unusual discharge. Pain during sex can also be an indication. Since cervical cancer is frequently asymptomatic in early stages, routine testing is essential to reducing your risk.
Due to increased focus on screening and advocacy over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer mortality rate has declined by more than 50% in the United States3. We still have a long way to go. While screening and prevention are vital, we need to continue to develop better treatment options and support for women with cervical cancer.
1. American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
2. American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html
3. American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/cervical-cancer-screening-guidelines.html