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Cervical Cancer

Overview and Facts

Cervical cancer and breast cancer are two of the most deadly cancers among women. Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that can affect women at many different stages of their lives including young adulthood. This type of cancer grows slowly and, without regular gynecological check-ups, could go unnoticed until the severity of the cases increases. Women can develop both benign and malignant growths on their cervix. Therefore, regular screening by your physician is necessary. Although there are other contributing factors, most women contract cervical cancer from an infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). The latest estimates from 2010 indicate upwards of 12,200 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States in addition to approximately 4,210 individuals who have died from the disease this year. Different cervical cancer treatment options are available (e.g., radiation and chemotherapy) if the disease is caught early on.

Signs and Symptoms

Since early cervical cancer symptoms may appear very minor or be non-existent, it is recommended women undergo regular gynecological exams and take Pap smear test to detect and treat the disease in its earliest stages. A pap smear is a standard test that involves scrapping a small amount of cells from the cervix and examining them under a microscope to look for any abnormalities. If the cervical cancer goes undiagnosed and is allow to grow, symptoms such as increased vaginal discharge, pain during sex, pelvic pain, and abnormal bleeding. Although there are other health issues that may cause these symptoms, it is important to speak with your doctor if you notice any abnormal changes in your body or menstrual cycle.

Causes and Diagnosis

The most common cause of cervical cancer is an HPV infection. Although many women will contract an HPV infection during their lifetime, most have no long-lasting effects. Other factors that can potentially increase a women’s chance of getting cervical cancer are smoking, a weakened immune system, having a lot of children, many sexual partners, failure to get regular Pap smear tests, and diethylstilbestrol (DES). Regular pap smear tests can find the cancer in its early stages so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Tests and Treatments

To better detect early cervical cancer signs, doctors recommend women should have a Pap smear test annually. Pap smear tests may be conducted at hospitals, doctor’s offices or a cervical cancer clinic. If Pap smear test results show any abnormalities, your doctor will recommend further testing (e.g., colposcopy, conization, endocervical curettage, or biopsy) to make a more accurate diagnosis. Women who present symptoms of cervical cancer and test positive for the disease will need to undergo more tests to determine what stage it is in. The first thing your physician will do is perform an extensive pelvic exam to look for any other problems and take more tissue samples. Several other tests that may be perform including a MRI, CT scan, chest x-rays, and a PET scan. Your doctor will look at all the cancer information gathered from your tests and, based upon the size and how far the disease has spread, will recommend one of several different treatment options including radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.

Tips and Home Remedies

Though not a cure, women fighting cervical cancer are advised to participate in at least moderate exercise to help improve overall physical health. Low impact exercises such as swimming and yoga can provide cervical cancer help often by reducing pain and nausea caused by radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As previously mentioned, treating cervical cancer may cause patients to suffer from side effects such as nausea and vomiting that can make them less likely to eat properly. It is important to speak with your doctor about any problems you have with eating. They may refer you to a dietician or other specialist to find a tailored diet that is more tolerable. A sufficient caloric intake is critical to keep the body healthy and better equipped to fight off the disease.

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