Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman's reproductive organs. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, are responsible for most cervical cancer cases. About 4,000 American women die of cervical cancer each year.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable diseases affecting women worldwide. With yearly cervical cancer screening, such as pap smears and pelvic exams, pre-cancerous cells are identified and treated before the disease fully develops.
Research has found several factors that may affect a person's risk of developing cervical cancer.
Infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
A high number of sexual partners
Many full-term pregnancies
Use of oral contraceptives
Infrequent Pap tests and cervical examinations
Diet low in fruits and vegetables
Abnormal cells in the cervix and cervical cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. That's why getting tested for cervical cancer is important, even if there are no symptoms.
As the cancer progresses, these signs and symptoms may appear:
Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Reducing Your Risk
Regular cervical cancer screening (Pap TestThe Pap Test, also called the Pap smear, is a cervical cancer screening test. The test can find abnormal cells in the cervix that may turn into cancer if they are not treated. During the test, the doctor or nurse uses a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen the vagina. This helps the doctor or nurse examine the vagina and cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and area around it. These cells are placed on a slide and sent to a laboratory to be checked for abnormal cells.) is recommended for all women (starting within 3 years of when a woman begins sexual activity or at age 21, whichever comes first).
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) for females 9 to 26 years of age to prevent cervical cancer caused by HPV. However, HPV vaccination does not substitute for routine cervical cancer screening (Pap tests).