Cervical Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention
Described as silent and deadly, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Indian women between the ages of 15 and 44. Sadly, India also has the highest (age standardized) incidence rate of 22 per 1,00,000 women per year of cervical cancer in South Asia.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma virus (HPV). More than 70 percent of the cases can be attributed to two types of viruses, HPV-16 and HPV-18, often referred to as high-risk HPV types.
Other cervical cancer causes include the following:
- Poor nutrition
- A weakened immune system
However, cervical cancer is slow-growing and can be prevented.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:
Precancerous cervical cell changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not have symptoms. For this reason, regular screening through PAP tests and HPV tests can help catch precancerous cell changes early.
Possible symptoms of a more advanced disease may include abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding, pain during sex or vaginal discharge. Notify your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- Abnormal bleeding, such as
- Bleeding between regular menstrual periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after douching
- Bleeding after a pelvic exam
- Bleeding after menopause
- Pelvic pain not related to your menstrual cycle
- Heavy or unusual discharge that may be watery, thick, and possibly have a foul odour
- Increased urinary frequency
- Pain during urination
Here are 5 ways you can prevent cervical cancer:
- Get regular PAP tests: A PAP test enables doctors to trace the changes in the cervical cells and other abnormalities. Women are recommended to have a PAP test once every 3 years from the age of 21.
- Follow up on abnormal PAP test results: If you have already been diagnosed with the infection, be very regular with the PAP test. However, if your doctor finds something more than the infection, she may suggest you take the HPV DNA test.
- Get Vaccinated: Cervarix and Gardasil are two vaccines available to protect against the types of HPV that cause the most cervical cancers. The vaccine can be taken from the ages of 11 to 26.
- Practice safe sex: Unprotected sex or having many sexual partners increases the chances of developing sexually transmitted diseases. It also increases the risk of getting HPV. Be safe and smart; use a condom during intercourse.
- Quit smoking: Tobacco by-products can damage the DNA of cervical cells which double the chances of developing cervical cancer.
Remember to get yourself checked regularly. Cervical cancer can be beaten if detected early!
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