The cervix is the portion of the uterus located just above the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the cervix. These cells, having undergone an anomalous transformation that causes them to proliferate abnormally, form a structure known as a neoplasm. If this neoplasm results in the destruction of adjacent tissues, and/or the spreading of the anomalous cells to other areas of the body, a cancer is formed.
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are dependent on the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). In most cases, a woman’s immune system will suppress the effects of the virus, but in a small percentage of women the virus causes cells in the cervix to metamorphose into cancer cells. There are two strains of HPV that are currently responsible for70% of all cervical cancers. Fortunately, a vaccine for these two strains of HPV has been licensed in the U.S and E.U.
Cervical Cancer risk factors
The risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): The contraction of STDs, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS, may result in elevated cervical cancer risk.
- Multiple Sexual Partners: Having many sexual partners increases your chances of contracting HPV.
- Tobacco Use: More research is needed to identify the link between tobacco use and the onset of cervical cancer. Regardless, statistics indicate a relationship between smokers and cervical cancer patients.
- Weakened Immune System: If your immune system has been weakened by another condition, then your body may be unable to prevent the onset of HPV side effects.
- Early Sexual Activity: Women who were sexually active before the age of 18 are more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer outlook
11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in the United States. Of the 11,000 diagnoses, approximately 4,000 will die from the disease. Globally, cervical cancer has the third highest morbidity rates among cancers that affect women. In the Western world, however, the disease’s death rates are decreasing. This is the result of a contemporary emphasis on regular Pap test screenings, especially if you are between the ages of 35 and 55.
Cervical Cancer prevention
- Regular Pap Tests: The most effective method of early cervical cancer detection is the Pap test. Consult your healthcare provider about a Pap test schedule. This test is recommended:
- Within three years of becoming sexually active, or at age 21.
- Annually, from ages 21 to 29.
- Every two to three years from the ages of 30 to 69.
- Have Fewer Partners: Reducing your number of sexual partners will also reduce your cervical cancer risk.
- Quit Using Tobacco: If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about treatments, therapies, and social networks that can help you quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you quit smoking, you will immediately reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that pass through your body.
- Have Sex Later in Life: Many young people that are sexually active do not practice “safe sex”. If you decide to have sex before the age of 18, make sure that you and your partner are aware of “safe sex” habits, such as wearing a condom and/or using oral contraceptives.
- HPV Vaccination: Gardasil, a new vaccine licensed in the U.S. and E.U., is recommended for all girls ages 11 and 12. Girls and women between the ages of 13 and 26 should also consider vaccination if they haven’t already received Gardasil.