One of the most common cancers in women, cervical cancer most often affects women between the ages of 35 and 44. While certain factors are at play that may increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, the survival rate of cases diagnosed early is an amazing 92 percent. With these encouraging statistics, it helps to keep a keen eye for symptoms and causes of the disease, as well as knowing how to prevent it.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, where the vagina connects to the bottom part of the uterus. When these cells become infected – most often as a result of a sexually transmitted disease – they start to mutate and grow out of control. This causes the tumors that are diagnosed as cancer.
Those who are diagnosed with cervical cancer most often have come into contact someone with has a sexually transmitted infection caused by various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Those who have had multiple partners are more at risk of developing cervical cancer, as the chances of exposure to HPV increase with each encounter. While HPV has no cure, it very often goes away on its own; it can also lead to genital warts or lay dormant for years.
Smoking doubles the risk of having cervical cancer. That’s because the toxic substances absorbed into the body through smoking can damage the DNA of cervix cells and can weaken the immune system. Disease or transplants, as well as chronic or acute illness may also weaken the immune system, making these women more vulnerable to HPV. Cervical cancer may also develop in women whose mothers took certain medications like Diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy to avoid miscarriage.
Signs and Symptoms
Common signs and symptoms for women with cervical cancer include increased vaginal discharge aside from menstrual flow, abnormal consistency or odor of the discharged fluid. It also includes abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain, an itching or burning sensation during discharge, bleeding even after menopause, pain during coitus (intercourse), and pain in the lower front of the abdomen or pelvic area. However, sometimes there are no signs. That is why prevention and early diagnosis are so important.
One way to avoid or prevent cancer is through early diagnosis. Papanicolaou testing – more commonly known as the Pap Smear – helps reveal abnormalities and changes in the cervix. It can also detect precancerous and cancerous processes through collecting cells in the cervix. HPV vaccines for both young women – and men – also greatly reduce risks of getting HPV.
Women’s Care in Syracuse
If you are in the Syracuse area, visit a medical professional at Upstate Medical University and University OB/GYN Associates. With multiple divisions and locations, we cover the full breadth of women’s health care. Our medical school faculty is cutting edge when it comes to medical care and research. To have or schedule an appointment with our specialists and medical professionals, call us at (315) 464-5162 or request an appointment online.