January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. This time is dedicated to raising awareness about how women can protect themselves from human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. HPV types 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer.
Cervical health awareness matters
In the past, it was known as one of the deadliest of female cancers. But today, cervical cancer is considered the most preventable. Thanks to the continuing and widespread efforts to make women aware of the importance of Pap tests, and the availability of HPV vaccines and HPV testing, the number of cervical cancer cases has drastically reduced in recent years.
Testing for cervical cancer
Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (Pap tests) and follow-up care. Early detection of HPV 16 and 18 — the types that cause cervical cancer — is critically important.
Pap tests can detect cervical cell changes caused by HPV (which can develop into cancerous cells). For women age 30 and over, an HPV test may be used along with a Pap. Pap tests can also find early-stage cervical cancer, which is critical, since pre-cancer and early-stage cervical cancer shows no symptoms.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
The signs of cervical cancer usually don’t become evident until the cancer is growing into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding: If you experience bleeding after vaginal sex or after menopause, bleed or spot between periods or have menstrual periods that are longer or heavier than usual, you could have symptoms of cervical cancer.
- Unusual discharge: See your doctor if you notice blood in vaginal discharge, occurring between your periods or after menopause.
- Advanced symptoms: Back or pelvic pain, difficulty urinating or defecating, swelling of one or both legs, fatigue and weight loss can all be signs of advanced cervical cancer.
Spread the word about cervical health
The more women and parents know about protecting themselves and their children against HPV and cervical cancer, the more the numbers for cervical cancer will drop. Here’s what you can do:
- Encourage women to schedule their well-woman visit this year.
- Tell people most insurance plans cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screenings. Depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them.
- Talk to parents about the importance of getting their pre-teens vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. Both boys and girls need the vaccine.
If you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of cervical cancer, or any type of cancer, the team at Regional Cancer Care Associates of Central New Jersey is here for you.
Not only are we are dedicated to providing the highest standard of cancer and hematology care, we deliver the support, education and personal attention that are essential to your care. You’ll also find conveniences such as an on-site pharmacy and in-house financial guidance. In every possible way, helping you fight your battle on all fronts is our daily mission.