“Reduce Your Risk” is this year’s theme for Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which is January 22-28, 2018. Almost 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about two women die each day from the disease.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35; 75% of all cases can be prevented by cervical screening, better known as a pap smear test. This exam should be done every 2-3 years and has helped decrease the cervical cancer mortality rate by an extraordinary 50% over the last 40 years.
Neighbors Emergency Center wants to share with every woman the following information that can reduce the risk of this disease, and encourage women to take the necessary steps to protect their health because cervical cancer is entirely avoidable.
There are factors to take into account that can increase a woman’s chances of getting the disease and they include:
- Contracting a Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
Woman can guard against cancer-causing HPV with vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix. These vaccines protect girls and women ages nine to 26 from HPV linked to cervical cancer. While vaccines can protect against 75% of cervical cancers, woman may still be at risk of getting another type of HPV. Vaccines reduce the risk but don’t remove it.
Your best tool for prevention is the pap smear test. Precancerous lesions don’t turn in to cervical cancer overnight so having an exam every 2-3 years is still the best way to catch the disease early.
- Women should start cervical cancer screenings by age 21.
- Women aged 21 to 29 should have a pap smear test every three years.
- Women aged 30 to 65 should also have a Human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years.
- Women over 65 who have had regular screenings in the last 10 years can stop cervical cancer screenings if they haven’t had any serious pre-cancers found in the last 20 years.
- If you fall into a high-risk group, see the risk factors above and you should be screened more frequently.
Know the Symptoms
Many women will not see any physical symptoms of cervical cancer until it has reached an advanced stage. Warning signs include:
- Abnormal bleeding between periods.
- Pain or bleeding during intercourse.
- Unusual discharge throughout the menstrual cycle can appear.
All women, not just those at risk, should consider incorporating flavonoid-rich foods into their diet. Flavonoids, found in many fruits and vegetables, provide antioxidants which help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.
- Black beans
- Brussels sprouts
Besides making sure you or a woman you love is getting checked, there are numerous ways to help put an end to this illness.
- Hold an awareness day at your work place.
- Host a fundraising event for research and treatment in your community.
- Join the #SmearForSmear campaign.
By taking part in any of these actions, you spread the word about the importance of early detection and could ultimately save a life.