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Cervical Health Awareness Month

Jan 28, 2022

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. More than 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening. In January, we highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease, and the importance of early detection.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms, Causes, & Risk Factors

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of a woman’s cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

Various strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. However, in a small percentage of people, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells.

You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by getting screened and receiving an HPV vaccine that protects against infection.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms

Early-stage cervical cancer typically does not produce signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer typically include:

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells in the cervix develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. The mutations tell the cells to grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells then invade nearby tissues and can break off from a tumor to spread (metastasize) elsewhere in the body.

It isn’t clear what causes cervical cancer, but it’s certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most people with the virus never develop cancer. This means other factors — such as your environment or your lifestyle — also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer.

Types of Cervical Cancer

The type of cervical cancer that you have will help determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are:

Sometimes, both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Very rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

How Do I Prevent Getting Cervical Cancer?

Cervical Cancer Prevention

To reduce your risk of cervical cancer: