Here are the facts you need to know about cervical cancer. Cervical cancer used to be one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women. Performing a routine Pap smear has reduced the number of cervical cancer cases. This test can detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells early, saving the lives of many women. There are fewer than 200,000 cases per year in the United States.
Facts you Need to Know About Cervical Cancer
The cervix is located at the end of the uterus and it can open and close during child birth. It is also the area in which cancer cells can grow abnormally. These pre-cancerous cells can be found during a regular Pap smear. Through a process called metastasis, cancerous cells can spread to surrounding areas of the body. Different from other cancers, cervical cancer grows at a much slower rate. Pap tests can detect cervical cancer early, being much more likely for treatment to work. Pre-cancerous cells are most commonly found in women during their 20s and 30s. On average, women diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 35 to 44. This is why routine Pap tests are extremely important in the prevention and detection of this disease early on.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Based on the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, women between the ages of 21 and 65 should get a Pap smear every three years. When a woman reaches the age of 65 and has had three consecutive normal Pap tests, Pap testing can stop at this time. Although Pap tests can detect cervical cancer early on, there are some warning signs that might prompt a diagnosis.
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
One of the first signs of cervical cancer may be abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can be difficult to differentiate between normal bleeding (such as due to a menstrual period) and bleeding due to cervical cancer. Spotting, longer than usual periods as well as heavy menstrual bleeding may all be signs of cervical cancer.
Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Abnormal vaginal discharge is another symptom of cervical cancer that may occur. While women have normal discharge, abnormal discharge may be of a different appearance or smell. Examples include watery, brown or blood-tinged discharge.
If you experience pain during intercourse this can be a sign of cervical cancer. In more advanced stages you might have pain in your pelvis, appendix or lower back.
Diagnosing Cervical Cancer
Pre-cancerous cells can take years to develop into cancer. At times, it can take less than a year. The finding of pre-cancerous cells on a Pap test does not necessarily indicate that cervical cancer will develop.
If a Pap smear comes back with abnormal results, your health care provider will most likely perform a biopsy. A biopsy is needed to diagnose cervical cancer. This procedure is performed in a doctor's office where a small piece of tissue is taken from the cervix.
There are a range of cervical cancer stages from 1A to 4B. To determine the stage of your cervical cancer, a health care professional may perform imaging such as an X-ray or MRI. This will show if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This process is known as staging.
Cervical Cancer Treatment
The staging process will help your doctor determine the right treatment plan for you. This can depend on how much cancer is present and if it has spread to other areas of the body. This plan can be determined by your doctor and an oncologist.
Cervical cancer treatment options include laser surgery, which can be done in a doctor's office. Other times, removing the cervix, part of the cervix or other reproductive organs might be necessary. A hysterectomy may help reduce the risk of cervical cancer from spreading or returning. While it may put a woman's mind at ease, a hysterectomy results in infertility. Those who are done having children may prefer this type of treatment plan.
When cancer cells have spread to surrounding tissues or progresses too far, other treatment options may be needed. This includes radiation, chemotherapy, or biological therapy. These types of therapies help reduce cancerous cells. Make an informed decision with your doctor for the best treatment plan for you. There are pros and cons to each treatment option. For treatment to be effective, a healthy diet is key. Plenty of healthy calories and protein are essential. Giving up smoking and alcohol will also aid in your treatment plan.
These are some of the facts you need to know about cervical cancer. Make sure you are keeping up with your regular Pap smear every three years, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor. Reduce your exposure to STDs, HPV and other risk factors.
Talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms or have an abnormal Pap test. If caught early, treatment options are effective.
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