Cervical cancer can be sneaky. Early in its development it usually has no symptoms. Symptoms may not begin until the cancer has spread into nearby tissues.
When this happens, you may notice:
Fortunately, with early detection through regular Pap tests, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers.
Your health care provider can give you guidance about the testing that’s right for you.
The Pap test, or Pap smear, looks for a precancerous condition called dysplasia – a change in cells that precedes cancer. You should start getting Pap tests at age 21.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test looks for the virus that can cause cell changes. Starting at age 30, women should also have the HPV DNA test done with their pap smear.
If you’re one of the 32 women in America who will be diagnosed with the disease on any given day, your health care professional can refer you to a gynecologic oncologist — a doctor trained to treat cervical cancer and other women’s reproductive system cancers.
You can reduce your risk for cervical cancer by avoiding unprotected sex and getting the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination. This vaccine can also reduce your risk of vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers, as well as genital warts.
If you have a child (girl or boy) older than 9 years, visit with your health care provider about giving your child the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is most effective when given before a person is sexually active. Even though males can’t get cervical cancer, they can spread HPV, get anal cancer or genital warts.
If you have any questions or concerns about cervical cancer or reproductive health, visit with your health care provider. Now is a good time to make your appointment.
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