Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital issued the following announcement on Jan. 3.
“Kick back and relax” may not be the first phrase that comes to most women’s mind when hopping up on their gynecologist’s exam table, but it should be. Why? Because the American Cancer Society (ACS) expects nearly 13,170 women in the U.S. to have been diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2019 — and by showing up for your routine exam, you’ve likely just kept yourself out of this year's statistic. You’ve also avoided a worse one: of those 13,170 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, about 4,250 will die from it.
Since January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, the AMITA Health Cancer Institute and Women’s Health Institute want to make sure that you understand your risk factors — and why getting screened is always worth your time:
What Raises Your Risk for Cervical Cancer?
The most common risk factors for cervical cancer include:
Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women who are 35–44 years old; more than 15% are age 65 or older. Cervical cancer rarely develops in women younger than 20 years old.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
HPV is found in about 99 percent of cervical cancers, with two types — HPV-16 and HPV-18 — causing more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. If you have HPV, don’t panic — 90 percent of HPV infections resolve on their own within two years. Keeping on top of your Pap tests helps prevent that other 10 percent from developing into cervical cell abnormalities and ultimately cancer.
There is also some big HPV-related news in 2020: the age guidelines for HPV vaccination have been extended to age 45 (before, only ages 9–26 could receive the vaccine). This means that if you were too old to get vaccinated when the vaccine was first introduced, you can (and should) get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cervical cancer, according to ACS. Smoking also inhibits the immune system from fighting HPV infections.
This bacterial infection is spread by sexual contact and often does not cause symptoms. Women often do not know they are infected unless they are tested during a pelvic exam. Some studies have seen a higher risk for cervical cancer in those who have evidence of past or current chlamydia infection.
Family History of Cervical Cancer
If your mother or sister had cervical cancer, your risk of developing it is two to three times higher than someone without a family history.
According to some research, other risk factors might include (or be correlated to the above factors):
Diet low in fruits and vegetables
Economic status (low-income women often do not have easy access to healthcare services, including cervical cancer screenings)
HIV-positive or are taking immunosuppression medication
Long-term use of oral contraceptives and/or intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Multiple full-term pregnancies
Your mother, during your pregnancy, took diethylstilbestrol (DES), a hormonal drug that was given to some women to prevent miscarriage between 1940 and 1971
We recommend that you discuss these potential risk factors with your gynecologist during your next routine exam.
What Are the Signs of Cervical Cancer?
Early cancers often do not cause symptoms, which is why routine screenings are so crucial to detecting and preventing cell changes before they turn into something more serious. That said, notify your healthcare provider if you experience:
Abnormal bleeding (i.e., between regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse, after a pelvic exam, after menopause)
Pelvic pain not associated with your menstrual cycle
Heavy or unusual discharge that might be watery, thick or have a foul odor
Increased urinary frequency
Pain during urination
How Often Should You Get Screened?
The ACS recommends following these screening guidelines. All women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the recommendations for their age group:
Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed (a total hysterectomy) for reasons unrelated to cervical cancer and who have no history of cervical cancer or serious precancer should not be tested. Some women, because of health history (HIV infection, DES exposure, etc.), might need to follow a different screening schedule. Talk to your gynecologist about your personal history.
Don't Be a Statistic — Schedule Your Annual Exam
Cervical cancer takes time to develop, so it is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Deaths from cervical cancer in the U.S. continue to decline approximately 2% each year as a result of widespread use of the Pap test, according to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC).
Every woman is probably guilty of putting off their routine visit to the gynecologist at some point in their lives. So if you’ve been putting off your routine exam, hop up on that table with a smile, kick back and relax — you might’ve just saved your life.
If you don’t have a doctor, schedule your routine pelvic exam with an AMITA Health OB-GYN today.
Original source can be found here.
Source: Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital