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CERVICAL CANCER-WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW!

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Cervical Cancer is a cancer that affects a woman's reproductive system. It is the third most common cancer worldwide killing 300,000 women worldwide, mostly affecting women outside of the United States, primarily ages 35-55. In South Africa, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death. The women in South Africa do not have access to decent healthcare facilities. Instead, many rely upon public health care systems which only provide up to three free pap smears over the course of a lifetime, generally beginning at the age of 30.  



The cervix is located on the lower portion of the uterus.  Generally when a female has abnormal cell growth on the cervix, they are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Like many other cancers, the chances of survival are very high with early detection. In order to lower your risks in falling prey to cervical cancer, an annual pap smear is necessary. Many women who fall victim to cervical cancer fail to get their annual check-ups from their doctor. With proper checkups cervical cancer is 100% preventable.  Some women are fearful of doctors, while many others, especially in poverty stricken areas, simply do not understand or have the access to the appropriate medical care. 


HPV (Human Papillonmavirus) is the primary cause of Cervical Cancer. Sexual contact is how HPV is spread. Some forms of HPV can turn cancerous, others may manifest itself into genital warts and some may not have any symptoms at all. If you have been in sexual contact with multiple partners, it is extremely important to not miss an annual pap smear. Because HPV can remain dormant, or without symptoms, a woman may be infected and not know for years. A pap smear is given during a pelvic exam and  checks for abnormal changes within the cells of the cervix. HPV is also dangerous to men and can cause cancer in the the genital areas and other portions of their body. 

SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER MAY INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
  • PAIN DURING URINATION
  • ABNORMAL BLEEDING
  • PELVIC PAIN 
  • BLEEDING AT ODD TIMES, BEFORE OR AFTER PERIOD OR SEXUAL INTERCOURSE
If you have any of the symptoms above, you should immediately schedule an exam with your local health care provider to rule out the possibility of cervical cancer. DO NOT automatically panic if you experience any of the symptoms above. Symptoms could be due to other issues that are harmless or easily corrected. Even if the results come back abnormal, it is still best not to panic. Depending on how severe the cervical cancer is, there are multiple treatments options  that you can discuss with your doctor. If the problem is severe enough, it may require surgerychemotherapy or radiation. Sometimes a hysterectomy may be required. Each woman is different and doctors like to tailor the medical needs individually. Like other cancers, if left untreated, cervical cancer can spread throughout the body, generally to the bladder first. Many women who are in advanced stages of the cancer will have more severe symptoms such as back pain, weight loss and swollen joints. 

PREVENTION INCLUDES:

  • REGULAR PAP SMEARS
  • USING A CONDOM
  • STOP SMOKING
  • GETTING THE HPV VACCINATION
  • IF YOU HAVE A WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM (HIV OR FOR OTHER REASONS) YOUR RISKS ARE HIGHER AND YOU SHOULD TALK WITH YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT HOW OFTEN YOU SHOULD TEST FOR CERVICAL CANCER.