Knowing Your Risks of Cervical Cancer
The cervix is located in the birth canal, where the uterus connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer is a possibility all women face. The good news is that this cancer is very preventable with early screening and certain vaccines that can help lower the risk of developing this cancer.
There are many risk factors that raise the risk of cancer of the cervix. Some factors can be controlled while others cannot. The most important step a woman can take is understanding the risks and the need for early screening. In recognition of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, here are some risks you should be aware of.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
The main risk women face a common virus called the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Nearly all cancers of the cervix are caused by HPV.
The reality is that HPV actually consists of a group of around 150 viruses. The infection spreads through contact by the skin, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Most people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. The virus has no symptoms and will usually go away without treatment. For some women, long term exposure to the virus can lead to the development of this cancer.
Long term use of birth control pills has been linked in research to cancer of the cervix. However, the link between oral contraceptives requires more research, as there is no definite link between oral contraceptives and cervix cancer.
Smoking exposes women to the carcinogenic substances in cigarette smoke and raises the risk of cervical cancer, as well as a plethora of other cancers. Substances linked to tobacco products have been discovered in the mucus lining of the cervix in women who smoke.
A weakened immune system can raise the risk of this cancer. Women who are already stricken with other cancers or diseases that attack the immune system like HIV and AIDS are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Additionally, women who have herpes and chlamydia may have a higher risk. Some patients with this cancer have had chlamydia infections in the past. Studies have shown that the presence of chlamydia bacteria in the cervical lining may help HPV to grow there.
Having Multiple Sexual Partners
Early sexual activity, having many partners, and sexual activity with partners at high risk for HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases adds to the risk. A higher risk sexual partner means someone who has had multiple partners themselves.
Other Risk Factors
Between 1938 and 1971 some women received a prescription for the prevention of miscarriage. This medication was called Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and it has been linked to certain types of cancers. There is a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer for women whose mothers took this medication during their pregnancies.
Early Screening Can Save Your Life
Two types of early screening can help prevent this cancer or catch it in its early stages when it is most treatable. These tests include a Pap smear or an HPV test. For some women, both tests may be ordered.
Oncology Care in Henry County
At Henry County Hospital, we’ve been providing compassionate healthcare since 1919. When it comes to oncological care, each patient can expect individualized care that meets their needs. From education to emotional support, we focus on your individual health and wellness.