January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

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Carrie Gordon, MD, OB/GYN with MountainStar Healthcare joined Nicea on ABC4 Utah today to tell us about National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and more than 13,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 women will die. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. For example, exposing skin to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for many cancers. But having a risk factor, or even several does not mean that you will get the disease.

Several risk factors can increase your chance of developing cervical cancer. Women without any of these risk factors rarely develop cervical cancer. Although these risk factors can increase the odds of developing cervical cancer, many women with these risks do not develop this disease.

When you think about risk factors, it helps to focus on those you can change or avoid such as smoking or HPV. However, it is still important to know about risk factors that cannot be changed, because it’s even more important for women who have these factors to get regular screening tests to find cervical cancer early.

The HPV vaccine in most cases of cervical cancer if given before a woman is exposed to the virus. The vaccine is routinely recommended for girls and boys ages 11 or 12, although it can be given as early as age 9. It’s ideal for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are exposed to HPV. 

Women should start Pap smear screening at age 21. Between the ages of 21-29, women whose Pap smears are normal only need it repeated every three years. Women ages 30 and over should have testing for HPV with their Pap smear.

The most common cervical cancer symptoms are:  

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: This could include bleeding between menstrual periods, bleeding after sex, or bleeding after menopause.
  • Pelvic pain: This is typically constant pelvic pain. Or it may feel like pressure on your pelvis.

Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Schedule regular appointments with your OB/GYN and know your medical history and risks.

To schedule an appointment, visit the MountainStar Healthcare Website.

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