Cancer Of The Cervix

Cervical cancer is near the top of the list of common cancers affecting a woman's reproductive organs. Most cases of cervical cancer begin with one of the many strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Most women manage to fight off HPV before the virus can do any real harm. But in a small number of women the virus lives dormant inside of them for years and then alters the surface cells of the cervix into cancer cells. The cervix is the neck of a woman's uterus and is situated at the top of the vaginal canal.

It is rare for cervical cancer to affect women under the age of 30. Over the past five decades, the death rate from cervical cancer has declined as a result of the advent of Pap smear testing.

Early Stage

Not every woman has symptoms at the earliest and most treatable stage of cervical cancer. For this reason, regular Pap smears are essential for the early detection of cellular abnormalities. In the later stages of cervical cancer, a woman may experience these symptoms:

*Pelvic pain   

*Pain during intercourse

*Vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause, after intercourse, and between menstrual periods

*Bloody, watery vaginal discharge which may be profuse and/or have a bad odor

See your physician is you have any of these symptoms.

Risk Factors

Here are some of the risk factors that raise a woman's profile for developing cervical cancer:

*Multiple sex partners—more partners mean more chances of contracting HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer. If you are monogamous, but your partner plays the field, the same risk remains.

*Having sex at an early age—becoming sexually active before the age of 18 puts you at a higher risk for HPV. Younger cells are more vulnerable to the precancerous cellular alterations from HPV.

*Having other STD's—if you suffer from any STD, for instance gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV/AIDS, or syphilis, your chances go up for having HPV, as well.

Higher Risk

*Weakened Immune System—the vast majority of women who become infected with HPV never develop cancer, but if you have a weakened immune system and get HPV, you are at a higher risk for getting cervical cancer

*Smoking—no one knows just why this is so, but smoking cigarettes seems to increase the risk for cancer of the cervix. Smoking plus HPV becomes an even stronger risk factor for cervical cancer.

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