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10 things to know about cervical cancer

Years ago, cervical cancer was the number one cause of cancer-related death for women in the United States. Fortunately, early detection and treatment has improved dramatically over the last 40 years, reducing the mortality rate. Cervical cancer is preventable – a Pap smear can find precancerous changes in the cervix and an HPV test can determine if you carry the virus.

In 2018, the the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its cervical cancer screening guidelines. Women over the age of 30 now have the option of choosing an HPV test only, which has been shown to be effective in screening for cervical cancer. They also still have the option of the traditional Pap smear as well as the Pap smear and HPV test combination.

“If caught early, cervical cancer has a high survival rate,” says Jennifer Williams, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Piedmont. “Abnormal cells seen on Pap tests are precancerous [rather than cancerous] the vast majority of the time.” 

Here are 10 more important facts about the prevention, detection and treatment of cervical cancer:

  1. Approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.

  2. Most cases are caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted virus.

  3. Cervical cancer typically has no symptoms in early stages.

  4. It is often detected early thanks to routine annual pelvic exams and Pap tests, so schedule a yearly exam with your gynecologist.

  5. When found in the precancerous stage, cervical cancer is 100 percent curable with proper treatment and follow up.

  6. It occurs most often in women who are over the age of 30.

  7. Risk factors include: HPV, HIV, age, smoking, having sexual intercourse before age 18 and having many sexual partners.

  8. Symptoms in later stages include abnormal bleeding or discharge, as well as pain during intercourse.

  9. Because strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer, HPV vaccines were developed to protect females against strains that lead to vulvar, vaginal and cervical cancer.

  10. Treatment for cervical cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy or interferon.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Piedmont Healthcare
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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