Cervical Cancer Facts
Approximately 12,170 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. A few years ago it was one of the leading causes of death in women in the U.S. It is still the third leading cause of death for women worldwide. Annual pap smears have caused the number of deaths in the U. S. to drastically decline. Pap smears find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. Cervical cancer tends to develop in midlife, but it may occur earlier or later in life.
Cervical cancer forms in the tissues of the cervix, which is in the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. This slow growing cancer begins as a precancerous condition called dysplasia, which is detectable by a pap smear. It is 100 percent treatable.
There are cervical cancer risk factors, which women should understand. Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV (human papilloma virus), which is spread by sexual intercourse. There are several different types of this virus and some lead to cancer, while others may cause genital warts and some cause no problems whatsoever.
There are HPV vaccines available that protect against the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine will protect a woman against HPV. The vaccine is an injection and requires three doses. It can be given to girls as young as 11 years of age.
The sexual habits of a woman can certainly increase her risk for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer risk factors increase with a larger number of sexual partners, particularly if she has multiple partners, or partners that are involved in high-risk sexual activities. In addition, the risk is greater for an adolescent having sex before the age of eighteen years.
There is some evidence that smoking and the HPV infection work together to cause cervical cancer. The risk of having HPV is greater if a person has other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV/AIDS. A woman with a weakened immune system due to another health problem also has a higher risk for contracting HPV.
Cervical cancer is totally preventable. Getting the HPV vaccine, particularly if you are sexually active with multiple partners, is important. It is easy to reduce your cervical cancer risk factors by using protection, getting the vaccine and being very selective when choosing a sexual partner.