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Cervical Cancer Screening and Information
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women. In the
United States alone, it is estimated there were 11,270 new cases of cervical
women with the highest rates of cervical cancer are those from ages 35 to 39
and those from ages 60 to 64. Early detection is the key to treatment and
Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, or the organ that connects the
uterus to the vagina. It is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus
(HPV), which up until recently was a little-known virus. It has since become a
household name. This is a sexually transmitted virus that affects the mucous
membranes in humans. HPV is spread through sexual skin-to-skin contact.
Penetration is not necessary to spread the virus. Men and women can be
affected by HPV, and there are different strains. HPV that causes genital
warts won’t necessarily contribute to cervical cancer.
The only way to prevent HPV is to abstain from sexual contact. In recent
years a vaccine has been approved for the prevention of HPV. Early
detection of cervical cancer is also essential. This is obtained through a PAP
test. The incidence of cervical cancer has decreased in developed countries
around the world because of an increase in the use of screenings and
appropriate follow-up treatment.
The PAP test or PAP smear is named after Dr. George Papanicolaou who
first developed the test. A sample of cervical cells are taken and observed
under a microscope.
A woman can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in the body and
can lead to cervical cancer years after infection. There are often no
symptoms of HPV or cervical cancer, therefore PAPs are the single best way
to detect it. If there are any symptoms, they may include unexplained
bleeding or pain.
If cervical cancer is caught early, it can usually be treated successfully. A
woman may still be able to have children even after the cancer is caught
early enough. However, most treatments for cervical cancer make a woman
unable to have children afterward. Depending upon the stage of cancer
treatments may include:
- Cone biopsy to remove the cancer
- Simple hysterectomy to remove the uterus and cervix
- Hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of
both ovaries and fallopian tubes
- Radiation therapy, using high-dose X-rays or implants in the vaginal cavity
to kill cancer cells
Regular pelvic examinations and PAP tests can save a woman’s life and
prevent cervical cancer from developing. Women with any unusual symptoms
should not hesitate to speak with their doctor. AT102131