Cervical cancer is a cancer that begins in the lining of the cervix. There are several risk factors that would put a woman more at risk for acquiring the disease than others. Some factors can be avoided, while others cannot.

These risk factors include:

•  An irregular screening history — Women who don’t receive regular Pap tests are at increased risk of cervical cancer.
•  HPV Infection — Some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are transmitted sexually and can infect the cervix. Cervical infection with HPV is the primary risk factor for cervical cancer.
•  Sexual History — Women who had sexual intercourse at an early age and women who’ve had many sexual partners are at a higher risk of HPV infection and developing cervical cancer.
•  Smoking — Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer.
•  HIV Infection— Women who have been infected with HIV have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.

Unfortunately, cervical cancer does not cause pain or other symptoms in its earliest stages. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include: 

•  Menstrual periods that may be heavier and last longer than normal.
•  Watery or bloody vaginal discharge that can be heavy and have a foul odor.
•  Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between menstrual periods, or after menopause.

If the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues, symptoms may include:

•  A general feeling of illness.
•  Fatigue, loss of weight and appetite.
•  Dull backache or swelling in the legs.
•  Difficult or painful urination, sometimes with blood in urine.
•  Diarrhea, or pain or bleeding from the rectum upon defecation.

As a preventative measure, please tell Dr. Simhaee if you have abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharge, or any other symptoms that are unusual for your body. For this reason, it is important to have your papsmear done annually.

Dr. Simhaee offers the HPV vaccine, which  prevents cervical cancer. It is recommended to be vaccinated before the age of 26.

Information about HPV Vaccine:

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine developed to protect women against cervical cancer.  This vaccine is known as Gardasil, the drug is highly effective against four types of human papillomavirus, including two that cause cervical cancer. Since then there is another vaccine also has been approved for same disease called Cervarix.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that the vaccination series be given routinely to girls aged 11 to12.  It also noted that the series can be given to girls as early as 9 years of age at the discretion of physicians, and to girls and women who are 13 to 26 years old.  The vaccine should be administered before the onset of sexual activity (before women are exposed to the virus), but women who are sexually active may still be vaccinated. 

The vaccine will cost $140 per dose and protection will require three doses over 6 months.  In contrast, women’s and public health groups support early and mandatory vaccinations.

How common is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection?  HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.  Currently, more than 20 million men and women in the United States are infected with HPV, and more than 6 million are estimated to become infected each year.  HPV is most common in young women and men in their late teens and early 20s.  By age 50, at least 80 percent of sexually active women will have acquired HPV infection.

How serious is disease caused by HPV?  HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer in women as well as to other cancers that can affect males or females.  Cervical cancer is diagnosed in more than 9,700 women each year in the United States each year and causes 3,700 deaths.  Seventy percent of cervical cancers are caused by strains of HPV included in the newly licensed HPV vaccine.  HPV also causes genital warts in men and women.

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