What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus and connects the uterus to the vagina. The human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI), infects the cells of the cervix and causes them to become cancer cells.
Who is at risk for cervical cancer?
Anyone with a vagina and cervix can get cervical cancer. There is a higher risk for those who are exposed to HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is the most common STI and many people don’t experience symptoms, but if HPV doesn’t go away on its own it can lead to genital warts or cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in people with a vagina. Cervical cancer is most often diagnosed between age 35-44. It is rare for people younger than 20 to develop cervical cancer.
What increases the risk of cervical cancer?
According to the CDC, having HPV is the biggest risk for developing cervical cancer, but there are other risk factors as well:
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer doesn’t always show early symptoms. It’s best to do an annual visit with your doctor and keep track of what your body normally experiences. When in doubt, make an appointment with your doctor and let them know of any changes with your body. There are many helpful apps that can help you log your periods, spotting, and discharge to give your doctor an accurate log of information.
Can you prevent cervical cancer?
You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by having screenings done with your doctor (called a Pap smear); people who are 21 to 29 years old should have a Pap test every 3 years. Once you’re older than 29, your doctor may recommend changing the frequency. You can also practice safe sex by using external or internal condoms, and receive a Gardisal vaccine to help protect against HPV. When cervical cancer is found early, it is treatable. Speak with your provider if you have any questions.
How is cervical cancer treated?
Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Treatments can vary depending on the location of the cancer, what stage the cancer is in, the type (squamous cell or adenocarcinoma), your age, and your overall health.
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