By Penny Daughtery, RN, MS, OCN
Gynecology Oncology Nurse Navigator
Cervical cancer strikes more than 12,000 women each year, but thanks to increased use of annual Pap screenings, the incidence and number of deaths from this slow-growing cancer have decreased steadily.
Importance of Screening
Most cervical cancer is caused by specific strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is spread through sexual contact with someone else who has it. Someone can be infected with HPV and not know it, and it may be years after contracting the virus that cervical cancer develops. Not everyone who has HPV will get cancer.
When caught early, cervical cancer is a highly treatable disease. That’s why it’s so important to have annual Pap screenings. In fact, among the women diagnosed with new cases of cervical cancer each year, approximately half never had a Pap screening. Pap tests detect changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer and can help prevent the disease altogether.
Reduce Your Risk
You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by quitting tobacco use and practicing safer sex. Use condoms and limit the number of sexual partners.
For women 26 and under, vaccines are available to protect against some types of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer. However, vaccines cannot treat the disease or prevent it in women who already have cancer-causing HPV.
Pay attention to your body
Abnormal cervical cells rarely cause symptoms until they become cancerous. Pay close attention to your body and see a gynecologist right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal bleeding or a change in your menstrual cycle that you can't explain.
- Bleeding or pain during sex or when you put in a diaphragm.
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Georgia’s Leader in Cancer Care
The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is dedicated to the treatment and care of all cancer including cervical and other gynecologic (GYN) cancers. By offering innovative and less invasive cancer treatments, Northside is providing better outcomes for patients and offering renewed hope for a cure.
For more information about Northside Hospital’s Cancer Institute, visit www.northside.com.