What Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Cancer

In the United States, about 15,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 4,300 will die from the disease. Regular screening is the best way to prevent cancer by “catching” it in its earliest stages.

Harbor Community Health Centers provides comprehensive women’s healthcare services to help women of all ages enjoy optimal health and wellness. A big part of that care involves educating our patients, so they can take steps to improve their health. Our team wants you to know these six important things about cervical cancer to help you stay healthy.

#1: In its early stages, you probably won’t have any symptoms

Most women have no symptoms from cervical cancers until it grows and invades nearby tissue. For more advanced cancers, the most common symptom is vaginal bleeding, including bleeding during intercourse. In some cases, you might have pain or pressure in your lower belly, as well.

#2: HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer

HPV stands for the human papillomavirus, a widespread and extensive family of more than 100 viruses. A handful of these viruses are responsible for nearly all cervical cancers. Other members of this family cause herpes and genital warts. 

HPV is almost exclusively spread through sexual contact. The body’s immune system automatically clears most types of HPV. But some types remain, including those that wind up causing cervical cancer.

#3: Routine tests are essential for your health

Pap tests and HPV tests play critical roles in monitoring abnormal changes in and around your cervix that could be a sign of cervical cancer. The number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped dramatically in the United States, owing largely to the use of regular screening.

Even with a busy schedule, it’s critically important not to skip your routine exams and screenings. Testing is quick and painless, and it can be performed as part of your regular well woman visit. The CDC recommends regular screening beginning at age 21 and lasting until age 65 — or longer if your doctor recommends it.

#4: HPV vaccines help prevent cervical cancer

HPV vaccines target the specific types of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer. While the vaccine can’t offer 100% protection against these viruses, it significantly reduces your risk of infection — and your risk of developing cervical cancer.

The CDC recommends the vaccine be given at age 11 or 12 — before any sexual contact occurs. Women can be vaccinated up until age 26 if they haven’t been adequately vaccinated previously. From ages 27-45, vaccination may still be considered if you and your doctor think it could be beneficial.

#5: An abnormal Pap test doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer

Abnormal test results can be scary, but very often, they’re due to another cause, like an infection. In any event, don’t let fear of an abnormal result keep you from getting a Pap test regularly. If your test results are abnormal, we might recommend another Pap test or other tests to examine or take a small tissue sample for further evaluation.

#6: Cervical cancer can be treated

With routine screening, many cervical cancers and precancers are caught and treated early. But even if cancer has progressed, there are still treatments, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. 

Schedule your screening today

For women, routine cancer screenings and well woman exams play essential roles in staying healthy at every age and every stage of life. With three locations in San Pedro, California, Harbor Community Health Centers makes it easy and convenient to get tested for cervical cancer and vaccinated for HPV. To schedule your screening or vaccine, call the office, book an appointment online, or stop by our walk-in clinics.

You Might Also Enjoy...

10 Top Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home

A new year is a great time to start some new oral care habits that can keep your teeth and gums in great shape all year. Here are nine simple ways you can keep your smile looking its best.

Addiction Recovery: 5 Ways to Prevent Relapse

Recovering from an addiction is an ongoing process, but you can manage it with support and personal commitment. If you’re recovering from a substance abuse problem, these five tips can help you stay healthy.

What is Prediabetes, and Can It Be Reversed?

Prediabetes is a serious health condition that dramatically increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It's time to take vital steps to reverse the course of the disease. If you have prediabetes, here’s what you can do.

HCHC & Alinea Imaging Join Forces Against Breast Cancer

You’ve probably heard enough talk about mammograms to understand that they’re important.  You may already know they’re the best way to reduce risks associated with breast cancer by detecting irregularities early. But who should be getting a breast check?