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Cervical Cancer

The cervix is a part of the uterus, and is susceptible to cancer in some instances. Cervical cancer is when cancerous cells form inside of the tissue of the cervix. It is a cancer that slowly develops in the body over an extended period of time, so it is often hard to detect right away. A little known fact is that cervical cancer is often caused by a virus know as the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus can strike at any time and all women are encouraged to have a pap smear performed by the OBGYN doctor at least once a year. The Pap smear is an excellent tool in detecting cervical cancer. During a pap smear, the doctor will take tissue and cell samples from the woman's cervix and then test them under a microscope for any cell dysplasia, in which cells become abnormal. This test can save lives, and it is highly recommended that all women have a pap smear at least once per year when they turn 18. Just like any other disease, there are certain risk factors that can increase the odds of getting cervical cancer. Some of these risks include having a lot of children, having a lot of sexual partners, smoking, a weakened immune system, and being on birth control (or “the pill”). Of course, not all women who fall under these risk categories get cervical cancer, but they do increase the odds. Women who smoke and take birth control at the same time have an even higher risk, as well as a risk for high blood pressure and stroke.

Like every disease, there are certain symptoms to be aware of so that you know what they are in relation to cervical cancer. Some of the most common symptoms that go along with cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding (at a time other than during the menstrual cycle), pain in the pelvis, and unusual pain during sexual intercourse, or an unusual vaginal discharge. All of these symptoms should be taken seriously, and it's best to consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of them. If a Pap test comes back showing cell dysplasia, then a biopsy will most likely be the next step, just to confirm the diagnosis. It's extremely important to catch cervical cancer and treat it as early as possible, because this form of cancer can spread to the lymph nodes, which is very dangerous. Treatment options will really depend on the severity of the cancer, how far it has spread, and the patient's age. In addition, desires to have children will be discussed with your doctor, since treatments often vary depending on this factor. Many women do survive cervical cancer, so it's important to communicate with your doctor and pay attention to your body so you know if something feels wrong. Early detection and treatment is the key to success, just like with many other diseases. Being educated about cervical cancer is perhaps the most important element in preventing it or treating it.

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