Since the development of “Pap” tests in the past forty years, thousands of women’s lives have been spared from cervical cancer. Still, today, so many women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. There are several risk factors and warning signs to be aware of that could save your life or the life of a loved one.
There are risk factors that make women more likely to contract cervical cancer such as:
Human Papilloma Virus Infection (HPV) – There are more than 100 different viruses that are spread through skin contact and are considered a stepping-stone to cervical cancer. Detection of HPV is usually through the discovery of warts or Pap smear testing.
Food Intake – Women who are overweight and those with an insufficient or diet devoid of fruits and vegetables face a higher risk of cervical cancer.
Birth Control Pills – Female hormones that are found in several oral contraceptives increase the risk of cervical cancer. The risk of cervical cancer increases the longer a woman takes oral contraceptives and the risk doubles after five years’ use.
Genetics – Women with a genetic history of cervical cancer have 3x more risk of developing the disease.
HIV – The virus that causes AIDS damages the immune system and increases the risk for HPV infection.
Chlamydia Infection – Women who show signs of past or current chlamydia infection have a higher risk of cervical cancer.
Smoking – Women who smoke double their chances of acquiring cervical cancer. There are a couple of reasons—tobacco by-products damage the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to cervical cancer; smoking affects the immune system, which makes it more difficult to fight HPV infections.
Multiple Pregnancies – Women who have had 3 or more full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
First Pregnancy at a Young Age – Women who were under the age of 17 when they had their first full-term pregnancy are almost 2x more likely to develop cervical cancer later in life than women who waited until after age 25 to become pregnant.
Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer
Unfortunately, in the earliest stages of the disease there is lack of visual and physical symptoms. Many symptoms do not present until the cancer has spread. Typical symptoms are as follows:
- Leg Pain
- Vaginal Discharge
- Unusual Bleeding
- Discomforting Urination
- Irregular Urination
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles
- Uncomfortable Sex
- Pelvic Pain
- Back Pain
- Unexplained Weigh Loss and Fatigue
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
- Pap Test Screening for women every 3 years
- HPV Vaccine for women and men before age 20. Females can get their first vaccine as early as age 9
- No Smoking (including second hand smoke)
- Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases – use protection
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