Cervical cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in the US. Despite this, cervical cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers. That is why the American Cancer Association and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition continue to emphasize the importance of annual PAP screenings and HPV vaccines.
Two simple steps can mean a world of difference in detecting the HPV virus and in detecting cervical cancer during its early stages, while it is still easily treatable. At BICRAD, we want our patients to be informed and aware about the dangers of cervical cancer. That’s why we’re taking some time to share some cervical cancer facts you may not know, along with a personal story that touched our hearts.
As of 2018, the American Cancer Association estimates the following statistics:
• 13,240 women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the U.S.
• 4,170 women die from cervical cancer
• It is one of the most preventable types of cancer
• Most cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44.
• More than 15% of cases appear in women over the age of 65.
• 70% of cervical cancers can be attributed to two types of the HPV virus, HPV-16 and HPV-18
• By the age of 50, 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV. The majority of these women DO NOT develop cervical cancer.
• 90% of HPV infections resolve on their own within 2 years.
• While the exact cause of cervical cancer is unknown, it is shown that HPV is found in 99% of all cervical cancers.
• The best way to prevent cervical cancer is by having routine PAP smears and getting vaccinated against HPV.
Pre-cancerous cervical cell changes and early cervical cancers are usually asymptomatic, meaning that they demonstrate no symptoms. For this reason, it is important to see your physician for your annual PAP and HPV test. These tests can catch precancerous cell changes early and prevent the development of cervical cancer.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include:
• abnormal pain
• irregular vaginal bleeding - between periods or after menopause
• pain during sex
• watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
If you encounter any of these symptoms contact your physician as these could be signs of other health issues.
Cervical cancer is detected by a PAP smear, which collects cells from the cervix to be examined in a lab. A pap smear will show if there are any cancer cells or abnormal cell changes that indicate cervical cancer.
If any abnormal cells have been detected, more thorough testing will be performed to procure a diagnosis. These may include a colposcopy, which is a special magnifying instrument used to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. During a colposcopy, your doctor will conduct a biopsy of your cervix to examine for any cancerous cells. A biopsy will usually be able to diagnose whether or not the patient is suffering from cervical cancer.
The fight against cervical cancer is hard, but it’s a much easier battle to win when your cervical cancer is detected in its early stages, which is just another reason to ensure that you and the women you know are receiving yearly pap smears and are vaccinated against HPV. To learn more about cervical cancer facts or for more information on how we can help treat cervical cancer, please contact us or book an appointment today.