What is cervical cancer? What are its symptoms? What are the signs that you might have this disease? What is HPV?
In this blog, I want to discuss briefly about cervical cancer and answer some of these questions. There is some taboo about cervical cancer and HPV (human papilloma virus) a sexually transmitted disease that I think should be discussed and explained in some detail.
Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common gynecologic cancer in the USA. This is not to be confused as the third cause of cancer overall but as the third gynecologic cancer. The three most common cancers worldwide are 1) Lung 2) Breast 3 ) Colorectal 4) Stomach 5) prostate cancers and the three most common gynecologic cancers are 1) Endometrium (lining of uterus) 2) Ovarian CA 3) Cervical Cancer
So, What Causes Cervical Cancer?
First of all this is a preventable disease. In the USA, women should not be dying from this disease, but unfortunately they still are. Probability of developing this type of cancer its 1:128 and this occurs most of the time in women who never get tested. So what causes cervical cancer? The initial event that leads to this type of cancer is HPV infection. There are risk factors to develop an infection with human papilloma virus, like smoking and being sexually active at a very young age.
What is HPV?
It is a virus from the papillomavirus family that most of the time affects the skin, feet, anus, finger and mouth. Have you heard about Michael Douglass recently? He was diagnosed with oral cancer due to exposure to the HPV virus most likely due to oral sex. So, Human papilloma virus it’s a virus, plain and simple. There are more than a 100 types of HPV virus, but the ones that causes cancer are the type 16 and 18 ( although those two are not the only ones that can cause it, they are the most common ones). As our Michael Douglass story reads, Human papilloma virus can affect women and men. However, women are the ones that get tested via the not so fun, Pap smear. So guys and girls, before you embark on a Michael Douglass adventure, ask your partner if they have been vaccinated for HPV or if in the case of guys, ask if your partner have had their pap smear done. Really? nah! or should I?
Humm, good question. Unfortunately, most of the time it has no symptoms or signs. In the majority of cases, our immune system destroys HPV cells, and you rarely get to develop a sign or symptom. That’s good isn’t? Well, some other times the infection persists and that when it causes problems. For example, abnormal pap smear cells, genital warts, anal warts, oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, plantar warts, vaginal bleeding, and cancer of the uterus (lower part of uterus) . HPV symptoms can be none or can be multiple. It depends on your immune system.
Signs of Cervical Cancer
Some of these are but not limited to: vaginal bleeding, abnormal pap smear, rectal masses, vaginal masses, pain during sexual intercourse, bleeding during sex, postmenopausal bleeding, weight loss, foul odor vaginal discharge, obstruction during urination etc. There are quite a few signs, but sometimes they are not specific. That is why getting tested or vaccinated is your best bet to not get this disease.
Stages of Cervical Cancer
Classification of this disease its complicated so I will explain it short and sweet.
1) Stage 1: Confined to cervix.
2) Stage 2: Extended beyond the cervix ( the vagina)
3) Stage 3: Extended to the pelvic wall (lower vagina, kidneys, side of the uterus)
4) Stage 4: Has involved other organs including bladder, rectum etc)
Surgery if it is in stage 1 or early stage 2. Other than that is radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both. Other less invasive procedures are: Cone biopsy of cervix or removal of the cervix only ( radical tracheletomy) without removing the uterus
How to Prevent Cervical Cancer and HPV?
Vaccination. There are two types of HPV vaccine ( Gardasil and Cevarix). In other blogs I will discuss each one individually. Vaccination is indicated for girls age 9-26 y/o and for boys 9-26 y/o to prevent warts and to prevent anal cancer. Ask you OBGYN about it.
Top ten Reasons my Facebook followers should read this blog about Cancer?
10) Its been around since the 20th century, so its older than you. Have some respect please!!
9) People continue to die from this disease
8) Sexually transmitted disease it’s one of the most googled words or sentences
7) If you are a nun, you might be one of the lucky ones who do not need to read this article
6) Treatment options are available for men and women including vaccination
5) Since 2006 you can get HPV vaccination and party like it is 1999!! (Just kidding)
4) You want to take care of your health and sexual habits
3) It is estimated that if you get diagnosed with a routine yearly pap smear you have 92 % chance of surviving
2) If you drink, smoke, have multiple partners, you should care about this type of cancer
1) My number one reason why you should read this article: A sex topic beats the hell of whatever you are doing at home right now
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