The most widespread type of cancer in women today is cervical cancer. There are various factors that can influence its emergence, but the main is called HPV, or human papillomavirus. Sadly, the earliest stages of cervical cancer do not show their symptoms, so in the majority of cases it is very difficult to discover it before it gets invasive. However, there are some close indicators, and things you can do in order to stop it from happening. In the paragraphs below you will find information about the symptoms and possible prevention of cervical cancer.
Even though genital warts are not a symptom of cervical cancer and they do not increase the risk of cervical cancer, HPV can cause warts. So, if you have genital warts you may have been infected with a cancer-causing strain. This is why you must take care of your health and practise safe sex in order to reduce the risk of an HPV infection. Even though the virus can spread from skin to skin, preservatives are not always the best solution for preventing HPV. And even if you do get infected by HPV with cancer-causing strain, you may never develop cancer.
The symptoms of cervical cancer are usually not seen until it becomes invasive – that is, until its cells grow through the top layer of cervical issue and invade the deeper tissues below. Most women notice irregular vaginal bleeding and vaginal discharge with unpleasant odour. It can also be watery or tinged with blood. Another symptom is pelvic or back pain, especially during sex. Additional symptoms can include problems while urinating or defecating, as well as swelling of the legs. Maybe the most common symptom of cervical cancer is irregular bleeding, as well as bleeding after vaginal sexual intercourse. A good sign of cancer is bleeding between menstrual periods and bleeding in postmenopausal women, that is in women who no longer have bleeding. In young women, occasional spotting and minor bleeding irregularities do not have to mean anything, but can sometimes be a symptom of cervical cancer so it would be best if you reported everything to your doctor at your regular check-up.
The earliest age you should get your first Pap smear is 21. After that, the test should be repeated in every two years. After the age of 30 or after having three consecutive negative-result smears, you should get retested in every three years. If you happen to find a new sexual partner, you should get a smear in every two years. Since most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, older women can combine their Pap smears with HPV tests. If you do not have HPV, the odds are that you will not develop cervical cancer. In younger women, HPV is very common but doctors do not test them for HPV unless they have abnormal Pap smear. So, a good way of prevention is restraining from sexual intercourse with different men and the usage of condoms. Condoms can protect you from many kinds of disease, and HPV is one of them.
What every woman must remember is the following: do not simply wait for your symptoms to appear. Get regular screening and do Pap tests in every two years. Do not be afraid to conduct a research on the topic, get informed and spread the knowledge – there may be a woman who lacks information and you can be the one who can provide it to her. If you happen to hear a friend talking about unusual occurrences and these sound familiar to you – especially if there is more than one symptom from the aforementioned list – recommend her to go to a doctor and have her screening done immediately.
And finally, it is essential to repeat that even if you happen to have some of the symptoms – HPV, genital warts, occasional spotting or even irregular bleeding – there is a good chance that you do not have cervical cancer. But, prevention is the best cure, so do not take that risk; rather, you should take care of your health. Restrain yourself from unconventional behaviour and look after yourself. Do not feel guilty or bad if you say no – say it with pride.