Cancer is a difficult and scary thing to talk about.
It’s hard to know how cancer develops in a person’s body and how it will impact them long term. It can also spread from one part of the body to other vital organs, making it difficult to treat.
Cancer is a common cause of death, and cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer that impacts women all over the world.
But don’t fret quite yet– there are things you can do to prevent cervical cancer! Learn about cervical cancer and how it affects your body. Know what to look for, and know how you can prevent cancer from developing.
Luckily, I’m here to help you identify some common signs and symptoms and ways you can prevent cervical cancer.
What is the cervix and how does cancer affect it?
The cervix is a doughnut-shaped piece of tissue that separates the vagina and uterus. It dilates during menstruation and birth to allow passage from the uterus to the vaginal canal.
Providers look at your cervix during a pap smear to check for abnormal cell development. While cervical cancer is very slow developing, cell abnormalities can eventually become cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is linked to cervical and other reproductive cancers. There are many strains of HPV that are innocuous; however, some can lead to cellular changes that can become cancer down the road.
What symptoms should I look out for?
Unusual vaginal bleeding can be a sign that something is happening with your reproductive system. Bleeding between periods, after sex, or after you’ve already gone through menopause can be red flags. If you typically experience these things, you may not need to worry, but if these are new symptoms, have a conversation with your doctor about what you’re noticing.
Abnormal discharge is also worth noting. Discharge can not only be a potential sign of cancer, but it can also indicate a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Pelvic pain and difficulting urinating are also common symptoms that are worth getting checked out by a doctor.
Cervical cancer can impact other parts of your body like your legs and your weight. Watch out for unusual swelling and weight loss. These may be due to your body’s response to developing cancer.
What can I do if I notice these symptoms?
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A great rule of thumb is that if you notice anything that is unusual for your body, go see a doctor and have it checked out.
If abnormal cells are beginning to form, you have options for treatment. Providers can take a closer look and remove these cells through colposcopy and LEEP procedures and decrease your risk of cancer. Many people who have HPV or who have had abnormal pap results return to normal after receiving medical care.
How do I prevent cervical Cancer?
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get regular pap smears. Pap smears check for cellular changes that can lead to cancer. Cervical cancer develops slowly so regular check-ups are the best way to find out what’s happening with your body.
If you notice anything unusual, call your provider and set up an appointment.
Keep in mind that not everyone experiences symptoms if they have cancer. The best way to prevet cancer is to get regular screenings and check-ups.
Women under 30 should get pap smears every three years, and women over 30 should get them every five. Anyone who has had an abnormal pap smear may need to receive screenings more often.
Follow these simple steps to keep yourself healthy and share the knowledge with your family, friends, and loved ones.
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