January is cervical cancer awareness month
According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, more than 13,200 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and more than 4,200 die from the disease every year. But there’s good news: Some cervical cancer is preventable thanks to screening tests and the HPV vaccine.
Many cervical cancers are caused by an HPV infection, which is a viral infection that can be transmitted sexually or through skin-to-skin contact. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls age at age 11.
The American Cancer Society recommends that most women ages 25 to 65 get screened every five years for cervical cancer.
Risk factors for an HPV infection include number of sexual partners (the more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to contract a genital HPV infection), weakened immune system, damaged skin and personal contact.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are certain factors that can mean you are at increased risk for cervical cancer. Those factors include:
- Becoming sexually active at a young age
- Having many sexual partners
- Having one partner who is considered high risk
- Having a weakened immune system
- Chlamydia infection
- Long-term use of oral contraceptives
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Family history of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer symptoms include increased or unusual discharge from the vagina, blood spots or light bleeding at times other than a normal period, menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and is heavier than usual, bleeding or pain during or after sex, and bleeding after menopause.
Because cervical cancer usually doesn’t show symptoms until later stages, pelvic exams, pap tests and HPV tests are key to early detection.
To learn more about cervical cancer, chat with your physician at The Family Medical Center, 307-684-2228.
Sources: American Cancer Society, CDC
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