What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina and cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. It is caused majorly by a type of human papillomavirus (HPV) which is commonly contracted through Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and HIV/AIDS.
How to tell if you are at risk?
There are many risk factors. Women who have been using oral contraceptives for more than a decade are at risk. Also, those who have had multiple full-term pregnancies are also at risk. Women who have had multiple sex partners or whose partners have had multiple sex partners are also at a high risk of getting infected and contracting HPV.
Women who become sexually active or have a full-term pregnancy at a young age face more risk. Having a weak immune system can also make a woman vulnerable to HPV. Studies claim that active long-term smoking adds to the dangers of cervical cancer because smoking assists in the development of HPV.
What are the symptoms?
Like other types of cancers, symptoms of cervical cancer are also not visible at an early stage. It is only at the advanced stage that the woman may experience pain and bleeding during or after sexual intercourse. Some women often witness a foul-smelling discharge from their vagina and abnormal bleeding during periods. These are the symptoms of the advanced stage of cervical cancer which may turn worse and lead to pelvic pain during sex, loss of appetite, weight loss, back pain and swollen legs.
Are there any precautions?
The best thing is to get yourself vaccinated. The vaccine works best when given to a girl who is not yet sexually active and is aged 9 to 26 years. Besides that, it makes sense to use condoms during sex and avoiding intercourse with people you don’t trust. That way you avoid STIs as well as cervical cancer. Quitting smoking is another way you can keep yourself safe from cervical cancer.
How do I know about the health of my cervix?
You can go to a specialised doctor and get your Papanicolaou test (Pap test) done. This test screens and reveals precancerous developments in the cervix. If the result is negative, you’re okay. But in case it turns out positive, it means you may have to proceed with Radial Pelvic Surgery or Chemotherapy. More information about that can be provided by a trained doctor. It is advisable to get your Pap test done at least once every two years starting either from the age of 21 or after getting sexually active.
Cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of death due to cancer in women. In more than eighty percent of the cases, it can simply be avoided by making better decisions about your lifestyle and sex life. It can also be prevented by being actively involved in taking care of your reproductive health.