Today is a great time to protect yourself and others cervical cancer.
The good news is you can lower your cervical cancer risk!
In celebration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January, let’s dive deeper into how we protect against cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors and Symptoms
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex, according to the CDC.
There are different types of HPV. Some cause changes on your cervix that can lead to cervical cancer.
Other risk factors include having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
Smoking tobacco can also increase your risk for cervix cancer.
Early stages of cervical cancer may show no symptoms. However, advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina.
More signs and symptoms to look for can be found here.
Cervical Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
If your doctor says that you have cervical cancer, you can ask to be referred to a gynecologic oncologist—a doctor who has been trained to treat gynecologic cancers, including cervical cancer, according to the CDC.
Doctors use information like the stage of the disease, size of cancer, and how far it has spread to plan treatment and to monitor progress.
Cervical cancer is treated in several ways, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Clinical trials
- Follow-up care during and after treatment
More information on treatment for cervical cancer can be found here.
Take Action: Lower Your Risk of Cervical Cancer
There are several ways to lower your risk of cervical cancer including practicing safe sex and avoiding or quitting smoking.
Getting the HPV vaccination can also help prevent cervical cancer.
“HPV is estimated to cause nearly 36,500 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the United States,” according to the CDC. “HPV vaccination can prevent 33,700 of these cancers by preventing the infections that cause them.”
Take Action: Get Screened for Cervical Cancer
Routine screening is another way to fight against cervical cancer.
The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause cell changes on the cervix. The Pap test looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
Individuals can begin getting Pap tests at ages 21-29.
“If your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test,” according to the CDC.
For those ages 30-65, talk to your doctor to determine which testing option is the best fit, which could be an HPV test, a Pap test, or both.
For patients older than 65, your doctor may tell you that you don’t need to be screened anymore if—
- You have had at least three Pap tests or two HPV tests in the past 10 years, and the test results were normal or negative, and
- You have not had a cervical precancer in the past, or
- You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids.
Catching cervical cancer early gives you a greater chance for a cure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Take Action: Get Screened for Cervical Cancer (Even if You Have No Health Insurance)
Are you or someone you know uninsured or underinsured?
The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services.
You could be eligible for free or low-cost screenings if—
- You have no insurance, or your insurance does not cover screening exams.
- Your yearly income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.
- You are between ages 40-64 (for breast cancer screening).
- You are between ages 21-64 (for cervical cancer screening).
- Certain women who are younger or older may qualify for screening services.
Select a state, territory, or tribe below to see the award recipient’s contact information and screening program summaries on the NBCCEDP’s website.
If you don’t have a primary care provider or doctor you see regularly, you can find a clinic near you that offers cervical cancer screening by contacting:
- your state or local health department
- a Planned Parenthood clinic, or call 1-800-230-7526
- NCI’s Cancer Information Service, or call 1-800-422-6237
Find more shareable resources on cervical cancer here.
Take Action: Join a Clinical Trial
Many factors contribute to these disparities, such as structural health inequities that impact access to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment services.
This is where clinical trials can help.
Clinical trials are studies that help researchers learn more and more to help slow, manage, and treat Alzheimer’s and cancer for current and future family members.
“Latinos in clinical trials are not only helping themselves, but they are also building a future with better treatments that can help their families and communities in the future,” said Dr. Ramirez, leader of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
Dr. Ramirez is creating new ways to encourage Latinos to volunteer for cancer and Alzheimer’s clinical trials, with support from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
Looking for a clinical trial that best fits you or someone in your family?
Volunteer now for amazing clinical trials to slow dementia at the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio!
Volunteer now for amazing clinical trials to slow cancer at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio!
Visit the Salud America! clinical trials page.
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