Cervical cancer can affect women of all ages. The following factors increase the risk of a woman developing cervical cancer:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Venereal disease
- Diets low in fruits and vegetables or undernourishment
- Being overweight
- Oral contraceptives
- Many full-term pregnancies or a first pregnancy at an early age
- Female relative(s) with cervical cancer
- Mother who took the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding, but there is a gradual change from a normal cervix to a cancerous cervix. Because cervical cancers do not appear suddenly, yearly pelvic exams and Pap tests are necessary to help detect the disease in its earliest stages. According to the American Cancer Society, an annual Pap test is the most effective way to detect changes in the cervix and the best way to prevent cervical cancer.
To find a family physician or OB/GYN visit MyNortonDoctor.com, or visit our Mobile Prevention Center for no-cost or low-costs screening options.
Cervical cancer from HPV can be prevented, but only if you get vaccinated. HPV Vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV and they are safe and effective. They are given in three doses over six months. It is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. The vaccines are most effective when given at 11 or 12 years old. But HPV vaccines are also recommended for teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger, teen girls and young women through age 26, as well as teen boys and young men through age 21.
For more information about free cancer screenings and where to get the HPV vaccine call (502) 899-6842.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, precancerous changes of the cervix usually do not cause pain. In fact, they generally do not cause any symptoms and are not detected unless a woman has a pelvic exam and Pap test.
Symptoms usually do not appear until abnormal cervical cells become cancerous and invade nearby tissue. When this occurs, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding.
- Bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods, or it may occur after sexual intercourse, douching or a pelvic exam
- Menstrual bleeding may last longer and be heavier than usual
- Bleeding after menopause may be a symptom of cervical cancer
- Increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling and unexplained weight loss may also be symptoms