January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month by the U.S.
Congress. Thousands of women are diagnosed with
cervical cancer each year, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of cervical
cancer and promote its early detection if it develops. This January, consider
talking to a women’s health services provider at JFK Medical Center
about your risk of cervical cancer.
Know the Symptoms
It is typical for cervical cancer to not
cause any noticeable signs or symptoms until it is already in an advanced stage, which is one reason why routine
screening tests are crucial. When cervical cancer does cause noticeable
changes, women may report abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding
that occurs during these times:
- After a pelvic exam
- Between regular menstrual cycles
- After sexual intercourse
- After douching
Additionally, some women report pain during intercourse and abnormal vaginal
discharge. As the disease continues to progress, patients may experience
pain in the back, abdomen or pelvis, appetite loss, extreme fatigue, bone
pain, urinary or rectal problems or swelling in the legs.
Identify Your Risk Factors
It is entirely possible to develop cervical cancer despite the absence
of personal risk factors, just as it is possible to avoid a cervical cancer
diagnosis despite having many risk factors. However, risk factors can
be a useful tool in assessing a patient’s individual need for screenings.
The most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is human papillomavirus
(HPV) infection. Some strains of HPV are preventable with a vaccine. Other
risk factors include the following:
- Cervical dysplasia
- A history of multiple sexual partners
- Tobacco use
- Suppressed immune system
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure
- Poor nutrition
Understand Your Screening Options
Screening tests include Pap smears and HPV tests. In general, it’s
recommended that a woman of average risk for cervical cancer receive a
Pap test every three years when she is between the ages of 21 and 29.
These guidelines change with age. Women who have previously had abnormal
Pap results or other risk factors of cervical cancer may be advised to
have more frequent screenings. A physician can provide personalized recommendations.
JFK Medical Center is a leading provider of women’s health services in Atlantis. We
offer comprehensive breast care, including oncologic services. For further
information about our women’s services, call our Consult-A-Nurse
line at (561) 548-4JFK (4535).