Understanding the risks of cervical cancer
January is the perfect time to focus on your health. This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s especially important to understand and be mindful of the risks associated with this type of cancer so that you can take steps to best protect yourself.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects women’s health, and its impact can be devastating. According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes of cervical cancer, ways to reduce your risk, and why it’s important to stay informed about the disease.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause changes in cells on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time. It is important to note that not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer; in fact, most infections do not result in any long-term issues or even cause any symptoms at all. However, if left untreated over time, it can lead to cell changes in the cervix and potentially become cervical cancer.
Types of cervical cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the two main types of cervical cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: arises from the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) that line the outer surface of the cervix. This type of cervical cancer makes up about 80-90% of cervical cancer cases. It tends to spread more slowly than adenocarcinoma and is less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis.
- Adenocarcinoma: arises from the glandular cells (adenocarcinoma cells) that line the cervical canal. This type of cervical cancer makes up about 10-20% of cervical cancer cases. It tends to grow more quickly than squamous cell carcinoma and is more likely to have spread to the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis.
Both types of cervical cancer are potentially fatal if not caught early and treated appropriately.
How is cervical cancer treated?
Radiation therapy is often used in killing cancer cells which makes it one of the best courses of treatment for those who develop cervical cancer. The radiation that is applied to the affected area eliminates not just the cells related to cancer but also any potential cancers developed in adjacent areas. In many cases, cone biopsy is performed to check and remove any abnormal cells in the patient’s cervix.
As part of a routine exam, your primary healthcare provider may check part of the uterus and recommend a pelvic exam during screening tests wherein they conduct HPV DNA test to detect the presence of certain high-risk types of HPV infection that are known to increase the risk of cervical cancer.
How can I reduce my risk of cervical cancer?
Regular screening for cervical cancer, such as a Pap test or HPV test, is the best way to reduce your risk and help prevent cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cells early, before they become cancerous. It’s also a good idea to get vaccinated against HPV.
The HPV vaccine protects against nine strains of HPV that are linked with cervical cancer and genital warts. Additionally, getting regular Pap smears helps detect precancerous changes early on before they become more serious or potentially develop into full-blown cervical cancer.
Practicing safe sex, such as using condoms, also helps reduce the risk of HPV transmission and subsequent cervical cancer. Additionally, quitting smoking (or avoiding it altogether) is a good way to protect yourself from developing the disease and other health risks.
Why is it important to stay informed?
Knowing the risks associated with early and advanced cervical cancer allows you to be proactive with your health care decisions and take control of your well-being. Knowledge helps empower us because it allows us to make informed decisions as opposed to ones based out of fear or misinformation.
Many people are unaware of their increased risk for developing certain types of cancers due to lifestyle choices such as smoking or lack of exercise; staying informed helps us maintain our physical and mental health by taking preventive measures ahead of time rather than waiting until something goes wrong.
Take action against cervical cancer
Cervical cancer affects thousands of women each year, but it can be prevented through proactive steps such as getting regular Pap tests and HPV tests from your doctor, getting vaccinated against HPV when appropriate, and practicing safe sex habits. Taking charge of your health now and catching it early can greatly improve chances of survival.
If you have any concerns regarding potential risk factors for cervical cancer or would like more information on preventative measures, schedule an appointment or visit a Nao Medical location near you today to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider right away!