Cervical Cancer Awareness
Women of all ages need to be aware how to protect themselves from cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the number two cancer killer of women worldwide. The good news is that when abnormal changes are detected early, death is preventable. However, each year nearly 4,000 women in the United States die from advanced forms of the disease. There are measures that can be taken that will reduce a woman’s risk of this type of cancer.
Most cervical cancer cases are caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 80 percent of women will contract a form of HPV at some point in their lives. However, not all strains of HPV cause cervical cancer. Over time, most HPV infections go away on their own, but some persist and lead to pre-cancer cell changes. When these pre-cancer changes are not treated, they can become cancerous.
How to protect yourself:
Talk to your doctor about your individual risk factors, and schedule an appointment for a Pap test. The Pap test will check for changes in the cells of the cervix. Cervical cancer can be prevented when cell changes are detected and treated early.
Most women should have a screening every two to three years. However, women who are at higher risk, who have had an abnormal screening in the past, or who have changed sexual partners may need more frequent Pap test screenings. Talk with a medical expert about when you should begin screening, how frequently you should be screened, and until what age. Women eligible for Medicare benefits who are at high risk are covered for one Pap test and pelvic exam each year. A Pap test and pelvic exam are covered every two years for women at low risk.
For girls and women ages 11-26, there are highly effective HPV vaccines available to potentially prevent infection from the HPV strains/types that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Medicaid covers the HPV vaccination, and the immunization is mandatory in Medicaid recipients under age 21.
Cervical cancer symptoms:
Symptoms of cervical cancer typically don’t show themselves until late in the disease process and vary from woman to woman. This is why screening is of utmost importance. Symptoms of cervical cancer are general and may be symptoms of other medical conditions. Some symptoms include:
Abnormal bleeding from the vagina, or a change in monthly menstrual cycle
Bleeding following intercourse
Pain during intercourse
As the disease advances, women will frequently experience pain down the back of their legs
Pain in the rectal area, blood from the rectum, or blood in urine
Proper and regular screening can detect cervical cancer before any symptoms have developed. A large part of cancer prevention and survival depends on what you know. Take the time to learn all you can about cervical disease risks and prevention.
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