A Short Guide to Cervical Cancer
One of the most pervasive and widespread medical ailments in the world today is cancer. Cancer comes in many forms and can affect many parts of the body, including the lungs, brain, and liver. Cancer that begins in the cervix is known as cervical cancer. The cervix is a hollow cylinder which connects a woman’s uterus to her vagina.
Usually, when cervical cancer develops, it begins in cells which sit on the surface of the cervix. In recent decades, screening tests have become widely available, which has caused deaths from cervical cancer to decrease steeply and rapidly. However, before such widespread tests were available, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death among American women.
HPV And Pap Smears
A Pap smear is a test used to check your cervix for any abnormal cells. The test involves the use of a speculum, which is a tool which allows the doctor or nurse to see your cervix. Next, a soft brush is inserted and used to collect the cells from the outside of the cervix before they’re sent off for testing.
An HPV test is similar but differs in some ways. An HPV test is used to scan DNA from your cervix in search of HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which normally goes away of its own volition. However, if it does not go away, or takes longer to do so, it can cause abnormal behavior in cervical cells, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer.
Testing For Cervical Cancer
Testing for cervical cancer often involves what’s known as a Pap smear, which involves collecting cell samples from the surface of the cervix. The cells are then sent to a lab to be tested for precancerous or cancerous signifiers. If the initial Pap smear causes alarm, a colposcopy can be administered, as well as a biopsy.
Women between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-nine should receive a Pap smear once every three years. Women aged between thirty and sixty-five should receive a Pap smear once every three years, as well as a high-risk HPV test every five years.
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is insidious because it often doesn’t present symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do arise, they usually take the form of other, more common ailments, such as menstrual periods or a urinary tract infection.
The most common symptoms from cervical cancer is unusual bleeding, such as in between the span of periods, after sex, or menopause, as well as vaginal discharge which looks or smells abnormal. Symptoms can also include pain the pelvis, needing to urinate at increased frequency, and pain during urination. If you notice any of these symptoms, arrange for a test immediately, as they could be hiding a more sinister condition.
According to The American Cancer Society, approximately 13,170 American women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019. Of those 13,170, 4,250 died from the disease, which is approximately 32%. Cervical cancer is most likely to be diagnosed in women who are between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four. Hispanic women are more likely than white or black women to develop cervical cancer, and American Indians and Alaskan natives have the lowest rates in the country.
Overall, the death rate associated with cervical cancer has dropped over the last decade or so. From 2002 to 2016, the number of deaths in the general population was approximately 2.3 per 100,00 women. Again, the decline in deaths associated with the disease has been attributed to more frequent and improved screening and screening methods.