About 500,000 women around the world will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, usually due to the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted virus that can be screened – via a Pap test – detecting early signs of cancer. The earlier the cancer is found, the more effective the treatment.
With January designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, health officials at Mount Sinai Health System are providing tips on diagnosis, risk, prevention and treatment options.
Dr. Stephanie V. Blank, Mount Sinai Health System Division of Gynecologic Oncology director, said cervical cancer is preventable. She said between the HPV vaccine and better screening options, doctors can better detect unusual cell growth before they become cancerous. Doctors now have the tools to completely eliminate cervical cancer, but these tools must be used properly.
What Does An HPV Test Look For?
The HPV test will look for the virus that causes changes in the cells. The Pap test is designed to detect cell changes that could become cancerous.
How To Prevent HPV From Developing
There are several ways in which to reduce your chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer due to an HPV infection:
- Vaccination – The HPV vaccine is designed to prevent infection and cervical cancer caused by HPV.
- Avoid Sexual Contact – Cervical cancer is mainly caused by an HPV infection. If you avoid sexual activity, you reduce your risk of developing HPV.
- Use Protection – It’s important to prevent the spread of STDs such as HPV, you should use spermicidal gels or a barrier protection to protect yourself.
Other Potential Cervical Cancer Risks
- More than one sex partner
- Birth control use for more than five years
- Secondhand smoke
What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer doesn’t generally show early signs of the disease, but advanced cervical cancer does. The symptoms of this disease are:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding
- Frequent need for urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pelvic pain
- Intercourse pain
What Are The Treatments For Cervical Cancer?
- Surgery to remove affected tissue
- Chemotherapy to stop cancer cell growth
- Radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing
- Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight against cancer