It is estimated that 1 of out of every 3 people in the United States knows someone with cancer. Its unfortunately becoming commonplace to find out someone has been diagnosed with some form of cancer. And cervical cancer is no different. One of our followers asks: “What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?” See below and share!
Cervical Cancer Causes
Infection with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) is believed to be the major cause of cervical cancer. Other risk factors include:
- Birth control pills: A 2003 scientific review of 28 studies found that compared to women who never took oral contraceptives, those who were on the pill for less than five years had a 10 percent increased risk of cervical cancer; those who took it for five to nine years had a 60 percent increased risk. The same study found that the risk returns to normal 10 years after a woman stops taking oral contraceptives.
- Smoking: Women who smoke have twice the normal risk of non-smokers. Tobacco byproducts have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke, and researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cervical cells.
- Pregnancies: More than three full term pregnancies are associated with an increased risk. The reason is unknown.
- Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables increases the risk.
- DES: Daughters of women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy between the years 1940 and 1971 may be at increased risk of a rare form of cervical cancer. DES is no longer given to pregnant women.
Reduce Your Risk With:
Some gynecologic cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. Vaccines protect against the HPV types that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys. (Note: The vaccine can be given beginning at age 9.) It also can be given to females or males who are 13–26 who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Ideally, girls and boys should get three doses of this vaccine before their first sexual contact. If you or someone you care about is in this age range, talk with a doctor about it.
Screening is when a test is used to look for a disease before there are any symptoms. Cancer screening tests are effective when they can find disease early, which can lead to more effective treatment. (Diagnostic tests are used when a person has symptoms. The purpose of diagnostic tests is to find out, or diagnose, what is causing the symptoms. Diagnostic tests also may be used to check a person who is considered at high risk for cancer.)
Of all the gynecologic cancers, only cervical cancer has a screening test—the Pap test—that can find this cancer early, when treatment works best. The Pap test also helps prevent cervical cancer by finding precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. In addition to the Pap test, which is the main screening test for cervical cancer, a test called the HPV test looks for HPV infection. It can be used along with the Pap test for screening women aged 30 years and older. It also is used to provide more information when Pap test results are unclear for women aged 21 and older. Learn more about the Pap and HPV tests.
Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for any gynecologic cancers except cervical cancer, it is especially important to recognize warning signs and learn if there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Talk with your doctor if you believe that you are at increased risk for gynecologic cancer. Ask what you might do to lower your risk and whether there are tests that you should have.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org Cancer center for more articles.