This post has been written by Devanshi. She very graciously wanted to write about this issue, to generate awareness amongst all of us about Cervical Cancer. Even though P & B is a place where we discuss extremely important topics that impact world peace such as lipsticks and smokey eyes, i thought we need to take a break from those and hear about something that really does impact a womans life. Over to you Devanshi..
Women awareness: Cervical Cancer
Written by Devanshi
Peaches and Blush is a large platform where women from different walks of life gather to discuss beauty, skincare, lifestyle etc. therefore it is most important to for this platform to be aware and educated about one of the most vital issues of women: Cervical cancer. There is loads of information available about this topic on the internet but I would like to bring some of this to the ladies connected to PnB. It will be my pleasure to spread awareness about women’s most significant issues on and through this space.
I myself have learned a lot more about this disease while collecting info from different sources for this article.
What is cervix and cervical cancer?
The cervix (or neck of the uterus) is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina. It is cylindrical or conical in shape and protrudes through the upper anterior vaginal wall. It is occasionally called “cervix uteri”.
Cervical cancer is malignant mass of cells of the cervix uteri or cervical area.
What are the causes of cervical cancer?
HPV infection: Infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix. HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers. HPV infections are very common. These viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up on their own. HPV infection that does not go on its own causes cervical cancer in women.
Smoking: Among women who are infected with HPV, smoking cigarettes slightly increases the risk of cervical cancer.
Weakened immune system (the body’s natural defense system): Infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or taking drugs that suppress the immune system increases the risk of cervical cancer.
Sexual history: Women who have had many sexual partners have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Also, a woman who has had sex with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk of developing cervical cancer is higher because these women have a higher risk of HPV infection.
Using birth control pills for a long time: Using birth control pills for a long time (5 or more years) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection. However, the risk decreases quickly when women stop using birth control pills.
Having many children: Studies suggest that giving birth to many children (5 or more) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection.
Early cervical cancers usually don’t cause symptoms. When the cancer grows larger, women may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
- Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
- Bleeding after going through menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
Infections or other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can tell for sure. A woman with any of these symptoms should tell her doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Diagnosing cervical cancer includes performing a pelvic examination and a Pap smear test. In women who are over the age of 30, cervical cancer screening also involves a test to detect high-risk HPV infection (called the digene HPV test). An HPV test also may be performed in women younger than 30 years of age who have an inconclusive Pap smear.
In a pelvic examination, the vagina and adjacent organs are examined visually and bimanually (using both hands). Visual examination is performed using a speculum (instrument that is warmed and used to separate tissue) inserted into the vagina. Next, the pelvic organs are palpated (felt with the fingers) by inserting gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and placing the other hand on the abdomen.
In a Pap smear, the health care practitioner removes cells from the surface of the cervix (lower portion of the uterus) using a spatula, cotton swab, or brush. The cells are placed on a glass slide for microscopic evaluation in a laboratory. For accurate results, the test should be performed 2 weeks after the end of a menstrual period and at least 48 hours after sexual intercourse.
If cervical lesions are suspected or high-risk HPV infection is present, a procedure called colposcopy is performed. In colpscopy, the cervix is washed with a diluted vinegar solution and examined for abnormalities using a light and a magnifying device (colposcope). If abnormal areas are detected, further evaluation is necessary, regardless of the results of the Pap smear.
- Get a regular Pap smear. The Pap smear can be the greatest defenses for cervical cancer. The Pap smear can detect cervical changes early before they turn into cancer. Check cervical cancer screening guidelines to find out how often you should have a Pap smear, or check with your doctor.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin having annual Pap smears at the age of 18, or when they become sexually active. After three consecutive negative tests, health care practitioners may perform the test less often (e.g., every 2 or 3 years). The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends a yearly Pap smear for all women who are sexually active.
- Limit the amount of sexual partners you have. Studies have shown women who have many sexual partners increase their risk for cervical cancer. They also are increasing their risk of developing HPV, a known cause for cervical cancer.
- Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer. Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia. Your best bet is to kick the habit.
- If you are sexually active, use a condom. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for HIV and other STD’s which can increase your risk factor for developing cervical cancer.
- Follow up on abnormal Pap smears. If you have had an abnormal Pap smear, it is important to follow up with regular Pap smears or colposcopies, whatever your doctor has decided for you. If you have been treated for cervical dysplasia, you still need to follow up with Pap smears or colposcopies. Dysplasia can return and when undetected, can turn into cervical cancer.
- Get the HPV vaccine. If you are under 27, you may be eligible to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents high risk strains of HPV in women. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved by the FDA to give to young girls as young as 9. The vaccine is most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active.
Women with cervical cancer have many treatment options. The options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of methods.
The choice of treatment depends mainly on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. The treatment choice may also depend on whether you would like to become pregnant someday.
Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.
At any stage of the disease, supportive care is available to relieve the side effects of treatment, to control pain and other symptoms, and to help you cope with the feelings that a diagnosis of cancer can bring. You can get information about coping on NCI’s Web site at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping and from NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or LiveHelp (http://www.cancer.gov/help).
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