Cervical Cancer Overview

Posted on: January 15, 2014

Cervical Cancer Overview

Dr. Gigi Chen At one time, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in American women. However, thanks to the increased use of the pap smear tests and HPV vaccinations, the diagnosis of cervical cancer is on the decline. Research shows a strong correlation between the development of cervical cancer and certain strands of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It is suggested that in order to develop cervical cancer, a woman must first have a specific strand of HPV. Nearly 3/4 of sexually active men and women may be infected with HPV at some point in their lives, however, most never know they have it because there are no symptoms and their bodies usually resolve it on their own. In order to keep cervical cancer diagnosis’ on the decline, we must focus on lowering the risk of women and girls contracting HPV. How to lower your risk:
  • If you are sexually active, limit your sex partners
  • Use condoms
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get the vaccine

Signs/symptoms

Unfortunately, there may not be any signs that you have cervical cancer early on. Signs and symptoms usually appear in later stages of the disease after the cancer has spread to near by organs. If you notice anything unusual, contact your doctor.

Risk factors

  • HPV
  • HIV
  • History of sexually transmitted infections
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Early onset of sexual activity

Prevention

In order to prevent cervical cancer diagnosis, it is important for women to stay up to date with pap smear and HPV tests. If you are between the ages of 21-29, you should have a pap smear done every three years. If you are between the ages of 30-65, you should have either a pap smear done every three years, or a pap smear and HPV test done every five years. (It is important to remember that a pelvic exam is not the same as a pap smear)! Because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, men can also do their part in helping to prevent the disease. Though not required by law, men and boys (if sexually active) should receive the HPV vaccine as well.

Treatment

There are three typical treatments used for cervical cancer: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Different targeted therapy is also used. There on going clinical trials to combat the disease.

Are you a survivor of cervical cancer?

After your cancer treatment, it is more important than ever to change your lifestyle. Though it may be hard and you might not want to due to fatigue or nausea, implementing healthy changes can help to improve your overall wellbeing. The following are some changes that you may want to consider:
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Cut down on the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Make healthier food choices (if you are feeling too nauseous to eat full meals, try eating smaller portions every 2-3 hours until you feel better)
  • If you are feeling fatigued, exercise can actually help. Exercising regularly can help your emotional health and your muscles get stronger. Due to the release of endorphins, most people feel happier with a decrease in anxiety and feelings of depression.
This is a basic overview of cervical cancer and the disease is much more detailed than described. If you are experiencing symptoms or have question, contact your physician.  Gigi Chen, MD is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist practicing at Diablo Valley Oncology, located in the California Cancer and Research Institute, Pleasant Hill. Tags: