Cervical Cancer Awareness: Signs, Symptoms, and Preventative Measures
The National Cancer Institute reports that in calendar year 2012, there were 12,170 new cases of cervical cancer reported in the U.S., with 4,220 deaths reported from the disease.
Globally, there were an estimated 473,000 cases of cervical cancer, with 253,000 deaths.
Regular Pap tests are the best way to discover if you have this dreaded disease, as symptoms of the disease are usually not evident until it is too late. But caught early, cervical cancer is highly treatable.
Cervical Cancer begins on the surface of the cervix, and if left untreated, advances and penetrates deeper into the cervix. This condition is termed Invasive Cervical Cancer.
The disease begins in the cellular structure of the cervical tissue. Normally, cells in the human body grow and divide into new cells when needed, and also die when damaged or old. Hormonal and chemical changes to the body, menopause, pregnancy or infection from the HPV virus, among other things, force changes to cells old and new, and the over production of new cells along with the dying cells not being eliminated by the body creates a tissue mass called a growth or a tumor.
Cellular changes in the area of the cervix are normal, and are not always related to cancer. They include inflammation, yeast infections, cysts and hormonal changes due to menopause or pregnancy.
Infection by the HPV virus can lead to pre-cancerous lesions and growths, and if left untreated, can become invasive cervical cancer.
There are over 100 different types of the HPV virus, and 30 of them can be transmitted by sexual contact. Of those 30, 50% are termed high risk for causing cervical cancer. Others at risk of contracting an HPV infection include those with HIV/AIDS, persons having unprotected sex and other risky sexual behaviors and those with an auto-immune suppressive type disease.
Vaccines for the HPV virus are available, and as 70% of all cases are caused by an HPV infection, getting vaccinated is the easiest way to avoid getting cervical cancer.
Once the cancer becomes invasive, the treatment options and chances for survival become bleak.
Treatment options include, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in combination with one and other are the only available options.
Once again, education is the key, and getting regular pap tests, getting vaccinated, avoiding unprotected sexual behavior and seeing your Doctor on a regular basis is the best way to prevent HPV and cervical cancer.
Complete information about the virus that causes the HPV infection can be found here, at the CDC website.
Article by Jim Donahue