During January, we focus on cervical cancer awareness to help prevent new cases and to support the research and public understanding of this condition.
Every year, roughly 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women in the United States alone. This is a high volume of women when many of these cases could have been prevented with proper early intervention. In this article, we will discuss the facts behind cervical cancer and the steps we can take to help anyone with a cervix stay safe.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cells that are located in the cervix. There is a growth of cancerous and abnormal cells that build in the area over time. They can even influence the surrounding areas, including the vagina and the uterus.
Two common kinds of cervical cancer impact this part of the body. The first is squamous cell carcinoma, which is the most common type and affects the outer cervix. The second is adenocarcinoma, which impacts the inner portion of the cervix and is relatively rare.
Early intervention for any cancer is essential, and that is also true for cervical cancer. Removing or destroying abnormal cells is necessary to slow the growth of this type of cancer.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer impacts many women, and the numbers are growing. Unfortunately, we still have a lot to learn about how cervical cancer works. We cannot say how cervical cancer is caused in every case—just the majority of them.
This type of cancer is most commonly linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of virus that is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections today.
While HPV can often come with little to no symptoms, the cervical cancer it is associated with is very dangerous. Most sexually active adults will be infected with HPV during their lives. This places a large number of people at risk.
The Impacts of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer, like other types of cancer, can lead to unpleasant symptoms and complications. Many women experience unusual bleeding and discharge, as well as pain during sexual activities. Unfortunately, that is not the extent of this cancer. In the United States, roughly 4,000 people die each year from cervical cancer.
Preventing Cervical Cancer
During the initial months of 2020, cervical cancer screening dropped by a shocking 84%, limiting how many women were actually being checked for cervical cancer. Since early intervention is so important, this is a significant blow that has led to a growing number of women being diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer.
While cervical cancer screenings are important, there is one method of prevention that can offer ongoing protection—the HPV vaccine. More than 90% of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. The vaccine, which is best distributed to children at the age of 11 or 12, can have a life-saving difference and help us eliminate cervical cancer almost entirely. This particular vaccine can save lives, now and in the future.
Cervical cancer can harm anyone with a cervix, and the growing number of late-stage cases is impacting individuals, families, and groups of people worldwide. It will take all of us to spread the right information to stop this harmful condition before rates continue to climb.
As we take time to reflect during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, remember to check in with the people around you to ensure that they have been vaccinated and are getting proper screenings. Spreading awareness and understanding can help us significantly limit the impact of cervical cancer. When we share knowledge and information, we save lives.