4 Cervical Cancer Risk Factors You Shouldn’t Ignore
An estimated 13,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year in the United States.
Of the 13,000 women, over 4,000 will succumb to this disease.
During this National Cervical Health Awareness Month, we’re encouraging our community to get screened for cervical cancer and learn more about personal risk factors. Keep reading to determine if you may be at risk for cervical cancer.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
The human papilloma virus, or more commonly referred to as HPV, is a sexually-transmitted disease that includes over 150 strains. You can contract it through the exchange of fluids in vaginal, anal or oral sex. Many individuals with HPV exhibit no symptoms so it’s important to always use protection during intercourse and to get regularly tested. HPV isn’t uncommon though and many individuals have a harmless variation of this virus.
Over 2/3 of all diagnosed cervical cancers are caused by two strains of the virus, HPV 16 and 18, but there are other high-risk strains. These strains are linked to other cancers, including cancer of the vulva and vagina, penile cancer in men and cancer of the anus, throat and mouth in both women and men.
HPV may present with some mild symptoms, although it often goes undetected. Some of these symptoms include itching, and warts on the genitals, anus or papilloma in and on the cervix.While HPV is a common infection, many of its strains are preventable with a vaccine. Wondering who should be vaccinated? Check out this link.
You may be surprised to hear that smoking doesn’t just increase your risk of lung cancer, but also cervical cancer. In fact, women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer than those who don’t smoke. Tobacco byproducts have even been found in the cervical mucus of smokers. In addition, smoking compromises the immune system and makes it more difficult for the body to fight infections, like HPV.
- Chlamydia Infection
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease which can cause inflammation in the pelvis and even lead to infertility. In some studies, women with past or current chlamydia infections are more likely to develop cervical cancer than women who’ve never had chlamydia.
- Long-term Use of Birth Contraceptives
Studies have shown that a woman’s risk of cervical cancer goes up when she uses certain oral contraceptives and continues to increase the longer she uses oral contraceptives. Once a woman stops taking oral contraceptives, her risk immediately lowers and goes back to normal after a few years.
IUDs (Intrauterine Devices) have also been shown to increase a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. Although, this type of contraceptive has been shown to decrease risk of endometrial cancer. Once the IUD is removed, the risk factor returns to normal.
We encourage our patients to speak with their gynecologist or general physician about the benefits and risk of contraceptives to find the best option for birth control.Taking these preventative measures doesn’t just protect against cervical cancer, it also promotes your overall health and well-being.
It’s important to remember that these are only risk factors and many women with one or more of these never develop cervical cancer. If you’re unsure about your personal risk, speak with a physician to determine the best long term monitoring plan.
Learn more about how often and when you should start screening for cervical cancer here.
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