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January: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer or Cervix epidermoid carcinoma (CxCa) is a cancer that occurs when cells in the woman’s cervix begin to change or multiply rapidly. The cancer can potentially progress and affect other parts of the body. This is known as a metastasis. Because of this, the lungs, liver, bladder, vagina, and rectum may become affected. Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most commonly sighted cause of cervical cancer.1 HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection for which vaccines are available.

Cervical cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer affecting women.2 It most commonly affects women between the ages of 35-44 years of age. In 2012, 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths were reported globally.3 The highest rates of cervical cancer were present in Eastern Africa, Melanesia and Southern/middle Africa.4 The lowest rates subsequently were in Australia and New Zealand.5 In the nited States, it is estimated that 13 800 may be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Cervical cancer symptoms are typically not present until the cancer has progressed enough. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding following intercourse, post-menopause, between period or following a pelvic exam.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.

What can I do?

Screening is crucial. Modern pap tests can pick up notable changes in cells before they become cancerous. This is something that your gynecologist will perform during your routine examinations. 

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis is established through a colposcopy. This exam takes approximately 5-10 minutes. It’s very similar to a pap smear but uses a different instrument that allows for magnification of the area in question. Your doctor may require a biopsy for further study of the tissue.