Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Jean Mages WHNP-BC

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Grand River Health

January is cervical cancer awareness month. Cervical cancer is a cancer that begins in the part of the uterus that opens to the vagina, called the cervix. Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. In countries where routine screening with Pap smears is unavailable this statistic still holds true. In the United States, however, the Pap smear became a regular screening instrument for cervical cancer, and deaths from cervical cancer have dramatically dropped by over 70%. Early detection and treatment of precancerous changes have often prevented the progression to invasive cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by a very common sexually transmitted virus called HPV or Human Papilloma virus. It is estimated that up to 80% of adults carry a form of this virus. The high risk forms are associated with the most potential for causing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented though vaccination, regular screening, and following up on abnormal Pap smears. It is recommended that pre-adolescents, both girls and boys, be vaccinated at age 11-12 so there is little risk the child has already been exposed to the virus through sexual activity. Young men up to the age of 21 and women up to the age of 26 can also be vaccinated.

Infection with high risk forms of HPV cause no noticeable symptoms, precancerous changes on the cervix also cause no noticeable symptoms. Only until cervical cancer is in advanced stages will there be symptoms that may make a woman seek medical help. Symptoms may include bleeding after intercourse, excessive discharge and abnormal bleeding between periods. Since most women will have no symptoms it is crucial to seek routine screening pap smears beginning at age 21.

The medical providers at Grand River Health would like to encourage women to prevent cervical cancer through three very important practices: vaccinate, get your Pap smear when recommended, and then follow-up on recommendations for future screening and treatment of abnormal tests.

For further information please contact the women’s health clinic at Grand River Health @ 970-625-1100.