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Things All Women Should Know About Cervical Cancer

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Cervical cancer is a risk for virtually every woman. Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to prevent, achieve early diagnosis, and treat it before it becomes problematic. These have been available in women’s health care for many years and have become increasingly simple and reliable.

That said, many women don’t have even the most basic knowledge of cervical cancer or the importance of taking the right steps to protect themselves. It is often not taught in schools, and unless regular annual doctor’s appointments are kept, some women don’t even realize how important it is to take these steps.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening is done by way of a simple, painless test called a Pap smear. These tests are so accurate that they can detect the cells while they are still pre-cancerous. For this reason, it is now considered to be an extremely effective way to screen for this disease. It is recommended that women start receiving them from the age of no later than 21 years old.

Screening is important because early detection allows treatment to occur before any cancer cells are actually present. When caught early, the treatments are much easier, faster and less aggressive. When cells are still pre-cancerous, treatments are usually short and done on an outpatient basis.

Prevention of Cervical Cancer

Most cervical cancer nowadays is entirely preventable. Nearly all cases of the disease are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). As there is an HPV vaccine, obtaining this shot can significantly reduce the risk of developing this cancer.

The vaccine is most effective when it is administered before the young woman first becomes sexually active. Therefore, the usual recommendation is for boys (who can’t get cervical cancer but who can spread HPV) and girls to receive the vaccine before the age of 12 years. Equally, women can still receive the vaccine up until the age of 40 years. Though it is not at its most effective at that point, it can still significantly reduce the cervical cancer risk.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

Early detection is very important. Women should receive Pap tests annually or once every three years, depending on the type of testing technology used. Furthermore, tests and vaccines or not, women experiencing unusual symptoms should mention them to their doctors. Symptoms of cervical cancer can include: non-menstrual cycle related bleeding, bleeding after sex, pain after sex, abnormal discharge, or pelvic pain, among others.