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Important Facts to Know About Cervical Cancer

January is Cervical Cancer awareness month and it is important for all women to know the symptoms, risks and treatment options available for cervical cancer.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer effects the cervix, which is located on the lower part of the uterus or womb.

There are two types of cells are on the lining of the cervix: squamous cells and glandular cells. Both of these types of cells are located at the transformation zone, which can change location as we age and also if you have ever given birth. The transformation zone is where most cervical cancer starts, and is a gradual formation. These cells start off as pre-cancerous and go from several different stages before becoming cancerous.

How long does it take for cells to go from pre-cancerous to cancerous?

This change is all dependent on each individual woman. The change can be from less than a year to up to several years.

Who is at risk of developing cervical cancer?

Anyone between the ages of 20 up to 50 is at risk of developing cervical cancer. The risk dramatically drops for women who get regular pelvic exams that include Pap tests.

What are Pap tests?

A Pap test or Pap smear is a screen done on a women's service that check's the cells of the cervix. This is done by a swap taken of the cervix and then looked at under a microscope to see if there are any abnormalities found. The human papilloma virus (HPV) are one of the causes of cervical cancer and is an STD that can be prevented by using protecting during intercourse and getting the HPV vaccine before the age of 25.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Symptoms vary from each individual woman, and while there are common symptoms, it is important to know that some women do not experience any at all.

The common symptoms that have been found amongst women that have had cervical cancer include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: after intercourse, spotting between periods, bleeding after menopause and longer periods than usual.
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina containing blood.
  • Pain during intercourse.

Treatment options

Depending on the stage and level that your cervical cancer is at will depend on the type of treatment options available to you.

The most common types of treatments are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted-therapy

It is important to remember that early detection of cervical cancer means that it is easier to stop the pre-cancerous cells from transitioning into cancer. That means, getting regular Pap tests done by your doctor, knowing your family history and also paying attention to any abnormal or unusual pain or discomfort in your female areas. 

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