Cervical cancer can be a frightening topic, but being informed about it’s causes, diagnosis, and treatment can help ease the apprehension and help you make informed choices about your healthcare. What causes cervical cancer, and am I at risk? How do doctors screen for cervical cancer? What are symptoms of cervical cancer? What are my treatment options if I am diagnosed with cervical cancer?
The primary cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV, and there are currently vaccines available that protect against some types of HPV. Women with an increased risk of cervical cancer include those who have had increased risk of being exposed to HPV (having multiple sexual partners, or a sexual partner who has had multiple other sexual partners, or having sex prior to age 18). You can also be at a higher risk for cervical cancer if you have a family history of cervical cancer, certain STI’s (such as chlamydia), or are a smoker.
It often takes several years for cervical cancer to develop, but there are screening tests that can help detect abnormal cells to begin early treatment before the cells become cancerous. At your annual exam, your doctor may do a Pap test and/or an HPV test to screen you. How often you should have a Pap test or HPV screening is dependent upon age and your medical history.
Some of the first signs of cervical cancer may be abnormal bleeding or abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting, watery discharge, or bleeding after sex. Symptoms of more advanced cervical cancer may include pelvic pain, difficulty urinating, or swollen legs. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist. If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, there are a number of treatment options including surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. The stage of the cancer and other factors will determine which treatment option is right for you. In some cases, doctors may recommend more than one treatment.
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to have routine Pap test and HPV screenings, and to receive the HPV vaccine if recommended by your doctor. The physicians of Comprehensive Women’s Health are here to answer any questions you any have regarding cervical cancer. Call 352-322-7222 today to schedule your next appointment!