In line with Cervical Health Awareness Month, we highlight the bad habits women need to look out for when it comes to cervical cancer and the importance of screening for the disease.
Types of Cervical Cancer
The cervix, which joins the uterus with the vagina, is where cervical cancer develops.
Cervical cancer can take one of two kinds. The first is cervical cancer with squamous cells. This kind of cancer affects the ectocervix, the part of the cervix that protrudes into the vagina. Cervical adenocarcinoma is the name of the other kind of cervical cancer. This kind of cancer affects the endocervix, or inside of the cervix.
The majority of cases of cervical cancer occur in women under the age of 50, whereas cases in women under the age of 20 are extremely rare.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is the most common cause of cervical cancer, however there are other risk factors as well, such as:
- A history of smoking
- Being overweight
- Long-term use of birth control pills or IUD use
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Family history of the disease
The good news is that HPV vaccination and screening might prevent up to 93% of cervical cancers.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Regular tests are essential for preventing many other cancers in addition to cervical cancer. When caught early on with a screening test called the Pap test, this disease is very curable.
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What is a Pap test?
A normal pelvic exam might include a Pap test because it is a straightforward procedure. In order to see your cervix, your doctor will place a tool into the vaginal canal that is referred to as a speculum. Then, using a unique brush or stick, s/he will gather cells from the cervix for laboratory analysis.
How does it help prevent cervical cancer?
The most crucial action you can take to prevent cervical cancer is regular Pap testing. Precancerous cells in the cervix can be treated with Pap tests in order to prevent the development of cancer. The majority of invasive malignancies are actually discovered in women who do not routinely have Pap tests.
How Frequently Should I Have a Pap Test?
The recommended frequency of Pap tests will vary according to your age and medical history. It is suggested that you adhere to these rules:
Women aged 21 to 29: once every three years.
Women aged 30 to 65: Pap tests alone every three years, or every five years in combination with an HPV test.
Test frequency should be discussed with your doctor.
It’s necessary to test certain ladies more often. You may wish to discuss more regular testing with your doctor if you suffer any of the following health issues:
- Compromised immune systems (from undergoing chemotherapy, getting an organ transplant, or using steroids).
- You have had therapy in the past for abnormal cells.
- HIV is present in you.
- Exposed to the synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol.
If you have had a hysterectomy and there is no cervix left afterward, you might not need to get routine Pap tests. Also, if you are over 65 and:
You don’t have a history of abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, you’ve had three consecutive negative Pap tests, or you’ve had two recent HPV and cervical cancer co-tests that have both come back negative in the past ten years.
As long as you are still on your period, doctors advise against doing a Pap test. Additional details on the timing of your test and how to prepare can be planned with your doctor.