Cervical Cancer Treatment- Cancer/Oncology, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Cervical cancer has been historically one of the most common cancers affecting women. Thanks to regular screening, early detection, and preventive methods, the burden of this disease has been significantly reduced over the last few decades.
The cervix is the lower part of your uterus, and sometimes, abnormal cells might start growing there to form a cancerous tumor. The cause is almost always an infection with one of the cancerous strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and around 90% of women with cervical cancer are found to have this virus. HPV is considered the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States.
Depending on the strain, HPV can cause genital warts in men and women, and cervical cancer in women. This does not mean, however, that every woman who gets the virus will develop cervical cancer. HPV is very common, and most women will be exposed to it at some point in their life. Nevertheless, in the vast majority of cases, the infection does not go on to cause cancer, and the body is able to get rid of the virus within a couple of years without the woman even noticing any symptoms.
Other factors that can contribute to developing cervical cancer:
- Being pregnant
Cervical cancer is a deadly cancer that is easily preventable by following a few simple tips:
1. The Pap smear
One of the revolutionary practices that lead to early detection and treatment of cervical cancer is the Pap smear (or Pap test). This test has shown incredible outcomes in screening for cervical cancer and reducing mortality.
For the test, your gynecologist will use a special brush during the pelvic exam to collect some cells from your cervix and sends them for testing. The Pap smear test detects pre-cancerous cells in your cervix (abnormal cells that are at risk of becoming cancerous). This allows your doctor to prescribe you proper treatment and followup early on.
Based on the types of cells and their characteristics, your gynecologist might order other tests (like the HPV DNA test), offer you simple surgical procedures to remove the lesion, or they might order regular follow-ups on a strict schedule to make sure that the condition is not progressing.
Generally, the test should be done every 3 years starting the age of 21, and then every 5 years after you turn 30. If the test is ever positive, the follow-up scheduled could become completely different, and your gynecologist would give you clear instructions on when you should come in again.
2. Get the HPV vaccine
Cervical cancer is usually caused by certain strains of HPV. This virus can cause genital warts in addition to cervical cancer.
Thankfully, doctors have developed vaccines that protect the body from the common HPV types. HPV vaccines have been very successful in preventing the disease and reducing cancer mortality. According to the United States’ CDC, routine vaccination has reduced cancer and wart causing HPV infections among teen girls by 86%.
Since HPV is very common, and exposure is likely to happen at an early age, health authorities recommend vaccinating both boys and girls when they turn 11-12. Even if you’re past that age, the CDC still recommends getting vaccinated if you haven’t done so by the age of 26. The goal is for the vaccine to be given before the person gets exposed to the virus (such as through sexual activity).
Women who are older than 26 and would like to get vaccinated should discuss this with their gynecologist since the HPV vaccine is likely to be less beneficial by this age. If you have children, consider getting them vaccinated by 11-12.
3. If you smoke, stop
Women who smoke are two times more likely to develop cervical cancer. Tobacco smoking damages your cells and can lead to DNA changes in your cervical cells that can speed up the development of cancer.
Cervical cancer rates have dropped dramatically since the introduction of new screening methods and HPV vaccination. Preventing cervical cancer is a fairly simple process, and your gynecologist can guide you through it. By performing a simple test every few years and abiding by a couple of protective methods, you can spare yourself the risk of getting this fatal disease.
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