Raising Awareness For Cervical Cancer

January is cervical cancer awareness month and we want to talk about it. This disease can often go undetected until it is too late. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and know what you can do to prevent it.
Did you know that cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women? And that each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States alone? Although we work to raise awareness for cervical cancer in January, this should be done year-round. 
We’re going to explain just what cervical cancer is, what can cause it, risk factors to keep in mind, how to reduce those risks, and ways we can educate others. Keep reading; you might just find out something you didn’t know. 

Understanding What Cervical Cancer Is

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, which is located at the bottom of the uterus and connects it to the vagina. It occurs when abnormal cells on this part of your body begin to grow out of control. Typically speaking, this type of cancer develops over time as a result of HPV (human papillomavirus) infection.
HPV is a very common virus and it’s estimated that about 80% of people will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. The good news is that most infections will clear up on their own without causing any problems. However, if you do get infected with HPV, there is a good chance that you will carry it for life.
This is why it’s so important to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine can protect you from the two strains of HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. Those strains are HPV 16 and HPV 18. These strains are particularly dangerous because they can cause the abnormal cells on the cervix to become cancerous. The vaccine is recommended for all boys and girls aged 11 or 12 years old, but it can be given to people of any age.

How To Reduce The Risk

There are also things you can do to reduce your risk of getting cervical cancer. Some of these include:

  • Getting regular pap tests; this should be started at age 21
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing number of sexual partners
  • Use protection every time you have sex
  • Avoiding oral sex; especially if you have a history of HPV infection

What Are Some Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer?

Symptoms vary but may include: 

  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Lower backaches

Some symptoms might not appear until later stages so don’t assume you’re fine if you don’t notice anything abnormal. If your doctor tells you that something is wrong, always get a second opinion to confirm the best course of action for yourself. If you’re concerned for any reason but aren’t experiencing symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out to your physician.
Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women over the age of 25. However, it can also affect younger women and even men. HPV is a very common virus that anyone can get so it’s important to be as proactive about prevention as possible. Even if you’re older, you should consider prevention tactics and seek additional information if you’ve never gotten an HPV vaccine. 

Who Is Susceptible To Cervical Cancer?

Anyone can be at risk, however, it’s more common in women between the ages of 30-50 years old. Those with a history of cervical cancer or who have had HPV infections are also at higher risk than those without such histories. HPV-related cancers are not as common in men but it’s important to understand that men are more susceptible to other forms of cancer if they experience long-term exposure to HPV infections.

Increase Awareness

Cervical cancer awareness month may not be as well known as breast cancer awareness month or AIDS Walk, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important! Spread the word and help make sure everyone that you can reach including friends and family, knows how they can reduce their risk of getting this type of cancer. Vaccination and being proactive about prevention are key! For more information on cervical cancer, the Cancer Research Institute is a great resource.