January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Each year in the US, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. What you might not know is cervical cancer is almost completely preventable.

In observance of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we’ll answer some of the most important questions about the disease.

Q1. What causes cervical cancer?

A1. There are many risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of getting cervical cancer.

  • Contracting human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that can be passed from person to person through intercourse. Some types of HPV are known to cause cervical cancer.
  • Smoking.
  • Having a compromised immune system.
  • Using birth control pills for an extended period of time (five years or longer).
  • Having many sexual partners.

Q2. What are the signs or symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

A2. Early cervical cancers usually don’t cause symptoms, but when the cancer grows larger, some women may notice abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain or pain during sex. The only way to accurately diagnose cervical cancer is by seeing your physician.

Q3. Is there a way to prevent cervical cancer?

A3. There are a few things you can do to decrease your chances of getting Cervical Cancer.

  • Get regular Pap tests. Pap tests can detect precancers and cell changes that, if not treated, could lead to cervical cancer.
  • Get vaccinated against HPV. There are two vaccines are currently available, Gardasil and Cervarix. The vaccines work like all other immunizations that protect against viral infections.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Use condoms and limit your number of sexual partners.

Q4. Is cervical cancer treatable?

A4. Like other cancers, treatment depends on the size of the tumor. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. According to the National Cancer Institute, the 5-year survival is 91.9 percent for cancers diagnosed in the localized stage. Survival rates decrease, however, if the cancer has spread before it is diagnosed and treated.

For more information on cervical cancer, check out the CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Cervical Cancer.

If you have more questions, contact your doctor. To make an appointment with a MountainStar physician, call 1-877-870-3745.

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