Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
AKA: Why you shouldn't skip your pap test!
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, created to spread the word about cervical health and promote regular screening for women worldwide.
So, what is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the lower portion of your uterus that connects with the vagina. Simply put, cervical cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells that spread to other parts of the body.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus that can be passed on through any type of sexual activity, regardless of gender. It affects about 50% of sexually active people and is normally cleared by the body on it’s own. However, when it persists in the body it can lead to cervical cancer, genital warts or other cancers.
What should I look out for?
- Cervical cancer often has very few symptoms, especially in the early stages. This is why getting a regular cervical cancer screening (your Pap or Smear test) is so important in detecting it early, so you can nip it in the bud!
- If symptoms appear, unusual bleeding is one of the most common. This can mean anything from bleeding during sex to getting bleeds after menopause.
- Back or leg pain might be felt in more advanced stages.
Are there any risk factors?
- Smoking has been shown to dramatically increase your risk of cervical cancer. The chemicals in cigarettes have been shown to have harmful effects on the cells of the cervix, causing precancerous changes.
- Being on the oral contraceptive pill for over 5 years is thought to increase your risk of cervical cancer, though it is not well understood why.
- Due to HPV being a sexually transmitted virus, the higher your number of different sexual partners, the higher your possibility of contracting it is.
- If your mother took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you, you chances of getting cervical cancer may be increased.
How is it treated?
Cervical cancer can be treated in a variety of ways depending on its stage and how it was diagnosed. The most common treatments are:
- Surgery (such as hysterectomy)
Can it be prevented?
There’s no one way to prevent cervical cancer, but there are measures you can take to look after your body! We recommend
- Always attending your routine Pap tests (every 3 years) so that any precancerous changes can be caught early.
- Getting vaccinated against HPV. Vaccines are now available for both men and women but are ideally administered at an age before becoming sexually active.
- Not smoking/quitting smoking. If you currently smoke, one of the best ways to lower your risk is by chatting to your healthcare provider about finding a way to quit that works for you!
It’s easy for you to make a difference! Join the cervical cancer awareness movement by making sure you attend your next pap smear, and reminding your loved ones to do the same 💕