Cervical Health Awareness Month
Facts about Cervical Cancer:
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the upper part of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
Estimated new cases and deaths from cervical (uterine cervix) cancer in the United States in 2008*:
Are You at Risk?
Studies have found a number of factors that may increase the risk of cervical cancer. These risk factors may act together to increase your risk even more3:
- HPV infection: HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix. An HPV infection that doesn't go away can cause cervical cancer in some women.
HPV infections are very common. These viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up on their own.
Some types of HPV can cause changes to cells in the cervix. If these changes are found early, cervical cancer can be prevented by removing or killing the changed cells before they can become cancer cells.
A vaccine for females ages 9 to 26 protects against two types of HPV infection that cause cervical cancer.
- Lack of regular Pap tests: Cervical cancer is more common among women who don't have regular Pap tests. The Pap test helps doctors find abnormal cells. Removing or killing the abnormal cells usually prevents cervical cancer.
- Smoking: Among women who are infected with HPV, smoking cigarettes slightly increases the risk of cervical cancer.
- Weakened immune system (the body's natural defense system): Infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or taking drugs that suppress the immune system increases the risk of cervical cancer.
- Sexual history: Women who have had many sexual partners have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Also, a woman who has had sex with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk of developing cervical cancer is higher because these women have a higher risk of HPV infection.
- Using birth control pills for a long time: Using birth control pills for a long time (5 or more years) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection. However, the risk decreases quickly when women stop using birth control pills.
- Having many children: Studies suggest that giving birth to many children (5 or more) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection.
- DES (diethylstilbestrol): DES may increase the risk of a rare form of cervical cancer in daughters exposed to this drug before birth. DES was given to some pregnant women in the United States between about 1940 and 1971. (It is no longer given to pregnant women.)
For more information about "Cervical Health Awareness Month", visit: http://www.nccc-online.org/awareness.html.