Cervical Cancer – Reducing Your Risk
Cancer is a general term that encompasses dozens of diseases that all begin the same way—when healthy cells mutate and begin growing out of control. Cancer can develop in almost any cell in the body, including the reproductive tract. In some women, the disease can begin in the cervix, or the lower, narrow end of the uterus (womb). This cancer is often asymptomatic until it reaches an advanced stage, making it especially important that women evaluate their risk factors and get screened often.
Are you at risk for cervical cancer? Below are listed some of the most important risk factors associated with this form of cancer.
- Human papillomavirus infection
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of over 100 viruses, some of which can lead to the development of genital warts. In most cases, the body can clear the infection on its own; but in other cases, the infection can become chronic. It is this type of chronic HPV infection that is the leading cause of cervical cancer.
- Tobacco use
Tobacco use increases a person’s risk of developing many forms of cancer, including cancer of the cervix. According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smokers are twice as likely to develop cervical cancers as those who do not.
- Oral contraceptives use
Studies have suggested that long-term use of oral contraceptives increases a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. Fortunately, risk appears to return to normal after pills have been stopped.
- Chlamydia infection
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection and a common sexually transmitted disease.Women with past or current chlamydia infection appear to be at a higher risk for cervical cancer.
If you possess any of the above risk factors, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk. If you are sexually active, be sure that you use a condom and practice safe sex to avoid HPV, HIV, or chlamydia infections. If you smoke, quit. Finally, do your best to get a Pap smear regularly to detect the early signs of cervical cancer before the disease becomes too serious.
For more information about staying healthy and preventing disease, contact the healthcare experts of West Hills Hospital & Medical Center at (818) 676-4000.