6 Facts You Should Know About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer starts in the lower, narrow end of the uterus called the cervix. It used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, death rates from cervical cancer have decreased significantly in the past four decades as women have learned about early detection and prevention. Here are some facts you should know.
- It’s mainly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This common virus is passed from one person to another through sexual activity. It can be present for years without causing symptoms and can be passed on to others without knowing.
- Most cases are preventable. Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-up. It’s also highly curable when found and treated early.
- Women over age 30 are at the greatest risk. Each year approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. All women are at risk but it mostly occurs in women over the age of 30.
- There are two ways to detect it early. The Pap smear is a test recommended every three years for women between ages 21 and 65. The HPV test detects HPV and according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, may be a more effective way to catch cervical cancer before it progresses. Women ages 30 to 65 may choose to have both tests done every five years.
- Not all strains of HPV cause cancer. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses – there are strains that can cause cervical cancer but most go away without treatment and aren’t linked to cancer.
- There aren’t usually and early warning signs. Cervical cancer is often referred to as a “silent killer” because there aren’t usually any warning signs, that is why regular screenings and follow-up are so important.
Want more information? Check out the American Cancer Society.