5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Cancer - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on October 26, 2017

Cervical Cancer Ribbon

5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer RibbonCervical cancer is detected in more than 200,000 women in the United States each year. It begins when cells lining the uterine cervix change and grow uncontrollably.

Here are five things every woman should keep in mind when it comes to cervical cancer:

1. Cervical cancer is only present in women. The cervix is a female organ that connects the main part of the uterus with the vagina. According to the American Cancer Society, most cervical cancers begin in the cells of the transformation zone. Rather than suddenly turning cancerous, these cells first develop into pre-cancerous cells that then turn into cancer. By getting regular screenings such as a Pap smear test, women can lower their chances of developing cervical cancer.

2. According the National Cancer Institute, screening for cervical cancer using the Pap test has decreased the number of new cases of cervical cancer since 1950. The earlier pre-cancerous cells are detected, the more likely it is that treatment can prevent cancer-related death. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that Pap smear testing should begin at age 21. With some exceptions for high risk populations, Pap tests should be performed every three years between the ages of 21-65. Annual testing should not be performed. Some women will also be tested for the presence of HPV (human papillomavirus) in conjunction with the Pap test. Regular screening for cervical cancer through a Pap test can help detect cervical cancer before it becomes life threatening.

“A Pap test involves swabbing the cervix and then sending the samples collected to a lab for examination,” explained Sacha Kang Chou MD. “Results of this test are available within a week or two, and you will find out if the Pap test is normal or shows areas of concern. If an abnormal Pap test is returned, then you and your doctor will discuss steps for treatment.”

3. Certain risk factors can contribute to causing cervical cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that is spread through sexual contact. Most of the time a woman’s immune system can fight off the HPV infection before it becomes cancerous, but a small number of women with HPV can develop cervical cancer. Smoking cigarettes (or breathing second-hand smoke) can increase your likelihood of getting cervical cancer.

4. Most women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the uterus and cervix (total hysterectomy) do not need further Pap or HPV testing. There are some exceptions, however, such as women who have had prior pre cancerous cells of the cervix or cervical cancer. If you have been diagnosed with either of these prior to your hysterectomy, it is advised that you discuss the need for further Pap testing with your doctor.

5. Women with any of the following risk factors may require more frequent cervical cancer screening than recommended in the routine screening guidelines:

  • Women who are infected with HIV
  • Women who are immunocompromised (such as those who have received solid organ transplants)
  • Women who were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while in their mother’s womb. Between 1940 and 1971, women were given this drug to prevent miscarriage.

Women previously treated high grade precancerous cells of the cervix or cervical cancer.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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