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Jul 24th

Cervical cancer: Some risks can be reduced

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January 2003 is National Cervical Cancer Prevention month. The uterine cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) that connects the uterus with the vagina. It is part of the female reproductive system. January 2003 is National Cervical Cancer Prevention month. The uterine cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) that connects the uterus with the vagina. It is part of the female reproductive system.

Significance of cervical cancer
Thanks to widespread screening with the Pap test (smear), the number of deaths due to cervical cancer has been decreasing.

Cervical cancer prevention
Many cases of cervical cancer are associated with known risk factors for the disease. Many risk factors are modifiable though not all can be avoided.

Screening History
Women who have not regularly had a Pap test (smear) are at increased risk of cervical cancer. In particular, many women over age 60 have not had regular Pap tests and are at increased risk. Receiving regular gynecological exams and Pap tests are the most important steps in preventing cervical cancer. Abnormal changes in the cervix can be detected by the Pap test and treated before cancer develops.

HPV Infection
There are over 80 types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Approximately 30 types are transmitted sexually and can infect the cervix. About half of these have been linked to cervical cancer. Cervical infection with HPV is the primary risk factor for cervic al cancer. However, HPV infection is very common and only a very small percentage of women infected with untreated HPV will develop cervical cancer.

Sexual History
Women who begin having sexual intercourse before they are 16 years old, and women who have had many sexual partners, are at a greater risk of HPV infection and developing cervical cancer. A number of health professional groups recommend that all women receive regular gynecological exams at the onset of sexual activity or by 18 years of age. The prevention of sexually transmitted diseases reduces the risk of cervical cancer.

Smoking
Cigarette smoking may be associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Many studies have shown an association while other studies have not.

HIV Infection
Women who have been infected with HIV have a higher-than-average risk of developing cervical cancer.

Diet
Several studies have suggested that various micronutrients, such as carotene and vitamins C and E, may reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Educating women about the risk factors for cervical cancer may lead to lifestyle and behavioral changes that result in decreased exposure to these factors.
 

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