What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the more common types of cancer. After breast cancer, it is the second most spread type of cancer. Cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus, located in the lower abdomen of a woman’s body. Cancer in this part if the body appears when abnormal cells grow without control.
Luckily, if it is found in its early stages, it can usually be treated. The most efficient way to do this is by going to the gynecologist frequently. There, the most common Pap (Papanicolaou) test can be made. With the help of this test and raising the awareness among women, the percentage of women who get cervical cancer lowered considerably in the last 50 years.
Most common symptoms
In the early stages of this disease, the symptoms aren’t there. That’s why it is so important to do regular visits to the gynecologist. But, if the cancer starts spreading these are the most common symptoms:
- Bleeding from the vagina between two periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Lower abdomen pains
- Bleeding and pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge with a strong smell which can also contain traces of blood
The most common cause of cervical cancer is the HPV (Human Papilloma) virus. This virus also happens to be the most common sexual transmitted infection in the world. There are more than a hundred types of this virus but not all of them cause cancer. There are high risk types (HPV 16,18,31,33,45) and low risk (HPV 6, 11,40, 44). Both HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for about 70% of cervix cancer. Many of us can carry this virus for years and not know about it. But, it can also cause cancer many years after.
The most common risk groups
Most common factors which contribute to getting cervical cancer are:
- A great number of sexual partners
- Sexual relations before 18 years of age
- Other sexual transmitted diseases
- Weakened immune system
Pap Test – The best protection against cervical cancer
An early diagnose is the best prevention of cancer in general. Every woman should visit her gynecologist at least once a year. There, a series of tests will be made including a pap test and an ultrasound test among others. The pap test is painless, although some women have said that it can be unpleasant. Taking regular swabs can help in catching the early symptoms of cell abnormalities of the uterus, which in turn can help in the early discovery of cervical cancer.
Other ways of protection:
- Using a condom
- Delaying the first sexual relation
- Quit smoking
- HPV vaccination
- Decreasing the number of sexual partners