Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus and connects to the vagina. It occurs when the cells in the woman’s cervix change. It can affect the deeper tissues of the cervix and spread to other parts of the body as well. All women are at risk of cervical cancer and it occurs most often in women over the age of 30.
Most cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV which is a sexually transmitted infection. However, HPV infection can easily be prevented by vaccines. Cervical cancer grows slowly which makes it relatively easier to treat before it causes more serious problems.
Since cervical cancer is slow to spread, it might not show any symptoms in the earlier stages at all. So, to rule out the possibility of cervical cancer, women should get regular Pap tests.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
- Unusual bleeding
- Pain in the pelvis
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Painful intercourse
- Heavier and longer menstrual bleeding than usual
- Bleeding post menopause
You must talk to your doctor if you bleed after menopause, have extreme bleeding during or between your periods, bleeding after intercourse often.
To safeguard yourself against cervical cancer, you can take the following precautionary measure:
- Get pap tests every 3 years – Once you’re 21 or older, you should get your pap tests done every 3 years to rule out the possibility of cervical cancer
- Get regular tests done for Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis if you’re sexually active
- Practice safe sex – Practicing safe sex is essential to reduce the risk of HPV infection which is a leading cause of cervical cancer
- Get HPV vaccination done – Since 70% of cervical cancers are the result of HPV infection, it is a great precautionary measure to get the vaccination done beforehand and safeguarding yourself
- Quit smoking – The use of tobacco can damage the DNA of cervix cells and can lead to the development of cervical cancer.
Certain factors can put you at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, which, if avoided can reduce the risk as well. They are:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Using contraceptive pills for a prolonged period of time
- Having a sexually transmitted disease
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having sex before the age of 16 or within a year of your menarche