As we reminded you at the top of the year, January is commonly known as National Blood Donor Month. But did you know that it is also Cervical Cancer Awareness Month? This cancer is very similar to breast cancer. But unlike breast cancer, it doesn’t have the same level of publicity with pink ribbons, marches, runs, marathons, and fundraising. Like breast cancer, cervical cancer is very devastating if the disease progresses and spreads throughout the body. Fortunately, and just like breast cancer, cervical cancer is very preventable and even treatable if caught early.
13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but many more are not at risk because they have been vaccinated for HPV. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that causes warts throughout the body, including genital warts. That’s one of the reasons getting vaccinated is so great! It’s a double-win since it protects women against both cervical cancer and genital warts.
“Boys and girls should get the HPV vaccine when they are 11 or 12,” said Dr. John Cheng, M.D.. “Until age 14, two doses of the vaccine are required. Anyone older than 15 will need a three-dose series of the vaccine. There really isn’t any reason for parents to delay getting their child vaccinated.”
Cancer Screening & Treatment
Cervical cancer screening is very straightforward. Women receive a Pap test in order to be screened for cervical cancer.
“A Pap test is really more like a swabbing in a way,” said Dr. John Cheng, M.D.. “The doctor or nurse will use a special brush or instrument to collect cells from the outside of the cervix and send them for lab results.”
If any cancerous or precancerous cells are found, then a doctor will follow up with the patient about treatment options, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Women should begin to get Pap tests on a regular basis starting at the age of 21 after speaking with their doctor. Once a woman is over 30, she should be screened with both a Pap test and an HPV test.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Like certain cancers, cervical cancer may not show any symptoms until it has grown very large. That’s why screening like Pap tests is very important. Some symptoms of cervical cancer include pain in the pelvis, abnormal bleeding from the vagina, unusual vaginal discharge, and even kidney failure in later stages of the cancer.
If you are over 30 and haven’t had a Pap test or are overdue for one, then contact us as soon as possible so that we can schedule your next appointment. If you have adolescent children and they haven’t received an HPV vaccination, we can talk to you about the need for that vaccination. Please get in touch with us so we can begin the process of helping you get the cervical and HPV cancer prevention you need.