It may be hard to tell that these symptoms are a sign of this disease.
Cervical cancer is no longer one of the more common cancers in American women, thanks to Pap and HPV tests. These screenings make it less likely that women will develop cervical cancer. They can identify when a woman is at increased risk of developing cancer, making it possible to monitor or treat pre-cancerous conditions before cancer develops. It is however, still possible to develop cervical cancer, so here’s what to look for and how to lower your risk.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
Early stages of cervical cancer typically produce no symptoms, but these symptoms may be noticed in more advanced stages of the disease:
- Vaginal bleeding following sexual intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Heavier than usual menstrual bleeding
- Increased vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Persistent pelvic or back pain
If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have not recently been screened for cervical cancer or HPV, see a doctor. These symptoms may be a sign of other conditions, but a quick screening test can help rule out or confirm whether it is cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer Prevention
Since most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), one of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing this cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys beginning at 9 to 12 years of age. If you did not receive the vaccine at that age, it is recommended that you get vaccinated if you are age 40 or younger. If you are older than 40 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, talk to your doctor about whether vaccination is right for you.
The HPV vaccine works best when given before any possible HPV exposure. Most sexually active adults have already been exposed to HPV, although they may not have been exposed to the types of the HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. This is why vaccination may still be recommended.
Another effective way to prevent cervical cancer is to have routine Pap tests and/or HPV tests. Pap tests can find pre-cancerous changes in the cervix that can be addressed before they become cancerous. HPV tests can identify high-risk types of the human papillomavirus, which may cause cervical cancer in the future.
Practicing safe sex can also reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer because it makes it less likely you’ll contract a type of human papillomavirus that may cause cervical cancer. Safe sex practices include using a condom every time you have sex and limiting the number of sexual partners you have. These practices generally prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The Sidney Health Center OB/GYN Care Team offers a wide variety of services to keep women vibrant and healthy. Don’t delay your women’s health exams. We have openings available. Call the OB/GYN Clinic at 406-488-2577 to schedule an appointment. Visit us online at SidneyHealth.org.
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