What Is Cervical Cancer?
cancer is caused by abnormal cellular changes in the cervix (the "mouth" of
the womb). It is the only gynecologic cancer that can be prevented by regular
screening with Pap smears. Despite this, more than 4,000 women will die from
cervical cancer in the United States this year. More than half of these women
will not have had a Pap smear in at least five years. All women should have
a Pap smear every one to three years, regardless of their age; some may need
Pap smears more often than once per year. Ask your doctor about when you should
have your next Pap smear.
Few cancers have a known cause, but cervical cancer is an exception. Most
cervical cancers are now believed to be caused by one of 13 different strains
of human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that also causes
cervical or anal warts.
The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is failure to
receive regular Pap smears. Other risk factors include having multiple sexual
partners, HIV or HPV infections, smoking, and early age of first intercourse.
Symptoms include bleeding
after intercourse, excessive vaginal discharge (or discharge that is repeatedly
unresponsive to treatment), and abnormal bleeding between periods.
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Created: 5/2/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.