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Cervical Cancer: Reproductive & Sexual Health Education Series

Updated: Nov 17

Part 4: Understand Cervical Cancer, Causes and Prevention Strategies

By Hamdy Inusah

Cervical Cancer is the growth of cancer cells beginning in the cervix. All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women at age 30.

“Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. In 2018, an estimated 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and about 311,000 women died from the disease.”

— World Health Organization

Major Causes of Cervical Cancer

Image from Sanjeevani Cbcc Usa Cancer Hospital

A long lasting infection with certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, but there are also several minor causes that can be attributed to the development of cervical cancer.

“Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.” — World Health Organization

Minor Causes of Cervical Cancer:

Image from WHO

  • Having HIV or other conditions that make it hard for the body to fight off health problems

  • Smoking

  • Giving birth to three or more children

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer Early on, cervical cancer may not show any signs or cause any symptoms. However, advanced cervical cancer is mainly characterized by the following:

  • Abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina

  • Pelvic pain


Prevention Strategies Against Cervical Cancer

  1. Because HPV is a major contributor to developing cervical cancer, one of the most important things you can do to prevent cervical cancer is to get the HPV vaccine.

  2. All women should begin cervical cancer screening within three years after they start having sex and no later than age 21, and screening should be done every year with a regular Pap test. During a Pap test, providers will take a swab and collect cells from your uterus and cervix, it will be sent to a laboratory to test for abnormal cells that could indicate a pre-cancerous lesion These tests can detect precancerous cell changes, the presence of HPV (which causes cervical cancer), and the presence of cancer.

Other Prevention Strategies include using protection during sex and quitting smoking.


 

Continue Reading our Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Series Part 1: Understanding Internal Female Reproductive Anatomy Part 2: Symptoms and Causes of Four Common Reproductive Health Issues Part 3: Four Things to Know About the Cervix Part 4: Cervical Cancer Part 5: Understanding HPV, the HPV Vaccine, and Common HPV Myths Part 6: Navigating Conversations about Reproductive Health Part 7: Going to the Gynecologist Subscribe to our blog to follow along with future posts!

 

Resources Learn more about Cervical Cancer from the CDC

Find a screening program near you if you are low-income, uninsured, and underinsured

Take this quiz to see how much you know about Cervical Cancer and to learn more facts!

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