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What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer

When I’m not mothering or sleeping, I’m an oncology nurse specializing in administering chemo. So while I usually focus on helping people get through cancer treatment, I’d rather not have to meet my patients in the setting that I do. Cancer doesn’t discriminate; sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for why it hits, but there are always steps we can take to help prevent it.

January is cervical cancer awareness month. Last year, nearly 13,000 women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and nearly 5,000 died from it. Many more were diagnosed with pre-cancer. It is usually diagnosed in mid-life {between the ages of 21 and 65}, so most likely if you’re reading this, you’re a prime target.

What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer | Houston Moms Blog

There is good news though! Read on to find out what you need to know…

1.} HPV is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer.

HPV, otherwise known as human papilloma virus, is a group of 150 different viruses that affect the skin {commonly called warts} and is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Infection is common and usually cleared by the body, but it can become chronic. Certain strains of HPV are more high-risk than others when it comes to developing cervical cancer.

Most doctors and scientists agree that a woman must be infected with HPV to develop cervical cancer. Important to note is that sex does not have to occur to spread infection. Avoiding contact of areas of the body that can become infected with another person may be the only way to truly prevent HPV from developing, but vaccines are available to protect against the most high-risk forms of HPV. {See the American Cancer Society’s recommendations for vaccination for more information.}

2.} Cervical cancer can often be found early and prevented entirely.

Cervical cancer can be completely prevented by avoiding contact with the HPV virus {see above}. In addition, it can be found early by getting regular Pap tests. Pre-cancer cells can be detected before they turn into invasive cancer. It is important to get regular screenings even after you have been vaccinated with the HPV vaccine because no vaccine provides complete coverage for all strains of HPV. 

A primary care doctor or an Ob-Gyn can do well-woman exams. Yearly visits are important, and your doctor will tell you when you are due for your next Pap test or other screening, but you can also see the ACOG recommendations.

3.} If detected early, it’s one of the most successfully treated cancers.

Several procedures are available for treating pre-cancers, most of which can even be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. They are almost always effective in removing or killing the abnormal cells and preventing them from coming back. In fact, for all localized forms of cervical cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 92%. {Source: American Cancer Society}

Because of this, cervical cancer awareness is so important! Visit your doctor and ask about regular screenings. It can be prevented.

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