Cervical Cancer Risk Factors, Prevention and Treatment
Cervical cancer is a serious health risk. We know cervical cancer as the “silent killer” because many times patients experience no symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time people do see symptoms, the disease spreads to other places. This makes treatment more tricky. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, doctors diagnosed over 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States alone. Also, over 4,000 women died of the disease. Worldwide, the numbers increase. All women are at risk, so we will walk you through the cervical cancer risk factors.
Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. Some hopeful cervical cancer statistics are that it now lies at spot 14th. Over the last 40 years, associated death rates dropped by more than 50 percent. Equally hopeful is the 91 percent five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at an early stage. Lastly, as you’ll read later on, new research gives us even more reason to believe the situation will continue to improve.
Vaccines and early detection can help
Progress also tells us that we can help prevent the disease. We learned the primary cause of cervical cancer: the human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix help guard against HPV and its related diseases. Women’s Care Florida offers these vaccinations at each of our practice sites. Girls ages nine and older can get these in three doses. Learn more about HPV immunizations here.
Annual well-woman exams are another important weapon in the fight against cervical cancer. Pap smear and HPV tests are highly effective means of detecting cervical cancer as early as possible. During the exam, your Women’s Care Florida physician will talk with you to determine which screening tests you’ll need based on the current cervical cancer screening guidelines.
Reducing cervical cancer risk factors
You should take several additional actions to help with cervical cancer prevention. If you smoke, it’s important you quit. The American Cancer Society states that women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking also weakens the immune system and lessens its ability to fight HPV. To keep your immune system in working order, be sure to stay at a healthy weight and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Women can also minimize their exposure to HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases by limiting their number of sexual partners. Also, use condoms when having sex. And while oral contraceptives are an effective means of preventing pregnancy, long-term use of birth control pills can also increase your risk of getting cervical cancer.
One factor that actually lowers the risk
And this leads us to the latest reason to stay positive: a recent report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that women who use an intrauterine device (IUD) as a means of birth control may be 30 percent less likely to get cervical cancer than women who don’t. Researchers arrived at this potentially significant finding through a worldwide review of studies concerning thousands of women who use an IUD and observing their rates of cervical cancer.
Although there isn’t a clear understanding of why an IUD offers women additional protection against cervical cancer, further study may reveal an effective means of fighting this deadly disease. For now, IUDs are not recommended for this use, but Women’s Care Florida will keep a close eye on future developments. And we believe continued progress in the fight against cervical cancer is a good reason to keep thinking positively.
To discuss how you can best protect yourself against cervical cancer, schedule your well-woman exam with a Women’s Care Florida physician.