Health & Wellness

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January is Cervical Health Awareness month. So, it is appropriate to kick off our Health & Wellness series with some information on cervical cancer. Many of us have heard of the term cervical cancer, but may not fully be aware of what it is or how it affects you and, most importantly,how to treat it.

First, let’s start with what it is. Cervical cancer is a malignant tumor of the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus. According to the American Cancer Society the two common types of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. Roughly 90 percent of cases are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning the cancer cells cover the surface of the cervix. The other 10 percent of cases are adenocarcinomas, meaning the cancer starts in the gland cells that make mucus.

The American Cancer Society says that there are between 12,000-13,000 new cases of cervical cancer that has spread outside the cervix are diagnosed every year in the U.S. And more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer each year. Most cases occur in women between the ages of 35 and 55, but can be seen as early in women as young as 14. Cervical cancer can be deadly if not treated properly or not detected in time.

We have lost celebrities like famed author Judy Blume or designer Liz Lange have been touched by this terrible disease. We also lost comedienne and actress, Yvette Renee Wilson (pictured left), from the popular sitcom, Moesha and Def Comedy Jam, to cervical cancer. This puts a spotlight on the fact that African-American and Latina women have a higher propensity to die from the disease, compared to women of other races and ethnicities, according to 2008 data from the CDC.  This is likely because these women seem to have more trouble clearing HPV, due to a likely decrease in Pap testing and follow ups.

In its early stages, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. So it is very important to visit your doctor regularly. The good news is when caught early enough, cervical cancer is highly treatable. Standard treatments are surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Pap smears have helped to better detect and treat pre-cancerous cellular changes. There are various stages of cervical cancer and the treatment can be very different. So, the first step is to find out what your diagnosis is to see what options you have.

Below are some great resources to learn more about cervical cancer. And, please share this with someone who you may feel needs to get checked out for peace of mind.

Center For Disease Control: Cervical Cancer Prevention

American Cancer Society: Cervical Cancer Learning Center

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