Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sexual activity. Cervical cancer can often be prevented or found early through regular screening tests (Pap test and HPV test).
- HPV infection: The most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with certain types of HPV.
- Sexual history: Early sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of HPV and cervical cancer.
- Weakened immune system: Those with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with HIV/AIDS, are at higher risk.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of cervical as well as other cancers.
- Long-term oral contraceptive use: Long-term use of oral contraceptives is associated with increased risk of cervical cancer.
- HPV vaccination: Vaccines can protect against the most dangerous types of HPV, reducing the risk of cervical cancer.
- Regular Pap tests: Regular Pap tests can detect precancerous changes in the cervix that can be treated before they turn into cancer.
- Safe sex practices: Using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners can reduce the risk of HPV, thereby reducing the risk of cervical cancer.
- Avoiding smoking: Not smoking can lower the risk of cervical cancer and other types of cancer.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Facts
Myth: Only sexually active women can get cervical cancer.
Fact: While HPV, the main cause of cervical cancer, is transmitted sexually, other risk factors can also contribute to the disease.
Myth: If you have HPV or cervical dysplasia, you will definitely develop cervical cancer.
Fact: Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer, and not all cervical
dysplasia progresses to cancer. Regular screenings can help manage risks.
Myth: A Pap test is not necessary after receiving the HPV vaccine.
Fact: Even after HPV vaccination, Pap tests are necessary as the vaccine does not cover all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
Myth: Cervical cancer cannot be prevented.
Fact: Most cervical cancers can be prevented through HPV vaccination and regular screening.
Myth: Cervical cancer has no symptoms.
Fact: Early-stage cervical cancer typically does not cause symptoms. However, advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal.
Myth: Women who have undergone menopause do not need to worry about cervical cancer.
Fact: Age does not eliminate the risk of cervical cancer. Women who have gone through menopause still need regular Pap tests.
Myth: Cervical cancer treatment always leads to infertility.
Fact: Not all cervical cancer treatments cause infertility. Early-stage cervical cancer may be treated with fertility-preserving methods.