Nearly 79 million Americans are currently living with HPV (human papillomavirus), which remains the leading cause of cervical cancer among women today. Most individuals living with HPV don’t even realize they are infected.
The Good News?
At one time, cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. However, over the past few decades the cervical cancer death rate has been reduced by over half, primarily due to the increased use of screening tests.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer regardless of age, health history, or ethnicity. Understanding the importance of annual screenings and early detection is our greatest defense in our fight against cervical cancer.
Did You Know?
- Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular Pap tests, other recommended annual screenings, and follow-up care.
- The HPV vaccine (shot) can help avoid HPV.
- Cervical cancer screenings can help detect abnormal cells early, before they turn into cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women follow these guidelines to help detect cervical cancer early.
- All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21.
- Women age 21-29, should have a Pap test every 3 years.
- Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This co-testing should continue until age 65.
- Another reasonable option for women age 30-65 is to get tested every 3 years with just a Pap test.
- Woman over 65 years of age who have had regular screening in the previous 10 years should stop cervical cancer screening as long as they haven’t had any serious pre-cancers.
- Women who have had a total hysterectomy should stop screening, unless the hysterectomy was done as a treatment for cervical pre-cancer.
**For more information on cervical cancer screening recommendations and guidelines, visit the American Cancer Society.
Signs & Symptoms
It’s common for women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers to experience no symptoms. When the cancer becomes more invasive and spreads to nearby tissue, the following symptoms become more prevalent:
· Abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as bleeding after vaginal intercourse)
· Bleeding and spotting between periods
· Unusual discharge (may contain blood)
· Menstrual periods that last longer and have a heavier flow
· Bleeding after menopause
· Pain during intercourse
These signs and symptoms don’t automatically point to a cervical cancer diagnosis. Having an infection can commonly cause pain or bleeding. If experiencing any of these signs or other alarming symptoms, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
The treatment options for patients with a cervical cancer diagnosis will depend on the stage of the disease. After establishing the stage of cervical cancer, treatment options will be made by a team of cancer treatment professionals.
For more on general treatment information of cervical cancer, click here.