Most Common Cause of Cervical Cancer
Every day, 30 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. The number of cervical cancer cases has decreased significantly as routine cervical cancer screenings, or Pap tests, have been broadly adopted. Even so, nearly 4,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die of the disease this year.
Some people with HPV will have genital warts, but many show no symptoms at all and do not even know they have it. Once the disease has developed into cancer, a woman is most likely to experience abnormal bleeding – but not always. That is why screening is essential in detecting and treating the condition early before it develops into cervical cancer.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Since the most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes, the disease can be prevented either by finding and treating pre-cancers before they spread, or by avoiding infection by cancer-causing viruses altogether.
To check for abnormal cell growth, a physician will perform a Pap test (Pap smear). A Pap test is a simple procedure in which cells are collected from the cervix and tested for abnormalities. If pre-cancerous cells are detected and treated early, cervical cancer can be stopped before it starts. That’s why regular Pap tests are so important – the doctor can find abnormal cells before they become cancerous and spread to other tissue.
Even better than early detection is preventing HPV in the first place. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a vaccine that helps protect against several types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Keep in mind that the vaccine does not protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV, so routine Pap tests are still necessary.
Talk to Your Doctor
Ask your physician about how you can help protect yourself - or your daughter - from cervical cancer.
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- Learn more about our Cancer Care Program.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, 2008; National Cancer Institute