Cervical Cancer: What All Women Should Know

Let’s begin by telling all women that cervical cancer or cancer of the cervix is almost the easiest cancer to detect and successfully treat. Unless you live in a desert, a place where there is limited or no healthcare, or you just refuse to go to the doctor, cervical cancer can be caught early, treated, and cured. Cervical cancer: what all women should know.

Woman with cervical cancer.

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV virus). This virus remains in our bodies as a long-lasting infection, and it is passed on through sexual intercourse. One-half of people will carry this virus at some point in their lives. Eventually, it goes away on its own.

Women between 35 and 44 are most frequently diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is a very slow-developing cancer taking years or decades to develop, but it can occur faster in people with a weak immune system. Screening tests and the HPV vaccine can help to prevent cancer of the cervix.

Finding Cervical Cancer

There are no symptoms of cervical cancer in its early stages making it hard to detect. Your only defense is being screened at regular intervals with a Pap smear. This test studies the cells in and around your cervix looking for any abnormal changes or precancerous cells. These are removed and sent for examination. The same is true for HPV. If there is any indication of the infection, those cells are also sent to a lab for testing.

Virginia Women’s Health will guide you through any results which are positive and recommend next steps.

You should begin these screenings between age 21 and 29.

If you are without insurance, you can always find free or low-cost screenings here

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

There are few if any early signs of cervical cancer, but when they do appear, they could be some of the following:

  • Watery discharge with a foul odor
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Periods may be heavier and last longer
  • Bleeding between periods and after menopause

If the cancer is at a later stage, the symptoms will be different.

Prevent cervical cancer by regular Pap smears and HPV tests.

Common Risk Factors

The World Health Organization tells us 99% of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus. In addition, smoking, having HIV, herpes or chlamydia, unprotected sex at a young age, and becoming pregnant very young can all be risk factors.

Because cervical cancer develops so slowly, it is easier to detect it early through regular Pap smears and HPV screenings.

Contact Virginia Women’s Health at (703) 435-2555 to make an appointment in Reston, VA for a screening test for cervical cancer.