January has been named Cervical Cancer Awareness Month by the U.S. Congress. This means that this month you should take extra steps to ensure that you know a little more about cervical cancer. Here are some of the things that you should know about this type of cancer.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted disease. What many people do not know is that HPV is not full prevented by using condoms, which you can read more about here. Knowing the sexual history of every sex partner that you have very well is important, but keep in mind that it only takes exposure to one male who is a carrier of HPV.
How is Cervical Cancer Detected Early Enough?
Early detection is one of the main keys to treating cervical cancer. This means that all women should schedule Pap smears with their gynecologist every year or every other year at the most. Pap smears can detect precancerous changes in the cervical cells.
After you have had an abnormal Pap smear, you will need to schedule a colposcopy with your doctor. During the colposcopy, which is like a microscope, your doctor may take a biopsy of the abnormal skin cells to check for cervical cancer.
Who is at Risk for HPV and Cervical Cancer?
It is rare for HPV to get to the point of cervical cancer if it is caught early enough. Know that you are at risk of having the virus if you have had multiple sex partners and have had unprotected sex. The risk of HPV not clearing up and leading to cervical cancer increases if you do not have regular Pap smears, do not follow a healthy diet, smoke cigarettes, or take birth control pills, which are believed to contain hormones that may weaken the immune system. Women who have given birth more than once are also at risk for cervical cancer. If you have a family history of cervical cancer, you may be genetically more susceptible to developing cancer as a result of HPV.
Can You Promote Cervical Cancer Awareness?
Everyone can do a little something to promote cervical cancer awareness. If you are a health educator, allowing a guest speaker to talk to women about the importance of getting regular Pap smears is ideal. Telling all of your friends about HPV and letting them know that they should have routine check-ups with their doctor to test for it and other STDs is also something that everyone can do. For more tips on how to help, visit the National Cervical Cancer and HPV Coalition’s website on Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.