Hi, I'm Cancer Screening. At Your Cervix.
At your cervix. Did you see what I did there? January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, so we're giving you the low down on why and how to stay proactive about your health. A cervix, what is it? Your cervix is the bottom part of the uterus, at the top of the vaginal canal and plays a major role in pregnancy (as in keeping the baby in there and opening to allow birth or sadly, miscarriage). When the doctors or nurses talk about being "fully dilated", that's what they mean- the cervix has opened fully and the baby can come through. The gateway if you will, to the birth canal (vagina), but I digress... Why are we concerned about cervical health? It's because every year, up to 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States but, this is a highly treatable and curable cancer with the right tools. So in short, because it's preventable (in most cases). Let's take a closer look.
Cervical cancer, what's the cause- HPV. Human Papilloma (pap-ill-oma) Virus is a sexually transmitted virus and causes an estimated 90% of cervical cancers (and is now recognized as playing a role in some mouth/throat cancers). Yes, ninety percent. Nine- Oh.
There are "high risk" strains and "low risk" strains. The high risk types of HPV are the cancer causers and there are two that are commonly found in HPV associated cervical cancers- types 16 and 18. The "low risk" strains tend to cause genital warts with the most common types being 6 and 11. It is also estimated that up to 75% of the "reproductive-age population" have been infected with one or more strains of HPV. So it's extremely important that we get screenings done.
How can I prevent HPV and cervical cancer? Prevention all together is going to have 3 approaches. 1) Don't have sex 2)Get regular PAP tests 3)Get your HPV Vaccine if you are elligible. Now, I know you're saying "why no sex instead of safe sex?" While cervical cancer rates are lower in those who use condoms, they do not prevent the spread of HPV. HPV can be transmitted even if you're using barrier protection (a condom). For more information on prevention and the vaccine, click here. Health care providers are now recommending the vaccine for not only adolescent girls, but boys as well (they come bearing gifts as well). Since cervical cancer is slow growing, it's very important to get regular PAP smears or an HPV test. A PAP test will identify abnormal cells that may be pre-cancerous, so this is where screening and highly curable meet. Unfortunately, the deaths caused by this cancer have a lot to do with access- people are not able to get the services they need due to cost and or lack of insurance. Here is a list of resources for free or low cost PAP screenings.
So who's at risk? So in addition to having sex, some other things that might make your risk of developing cervical cancer higher are: smoking (of course); HIV (or any other condition that makes it hard for your body to fight infection); long term use of birth control pills (more than 5 years); and having given birth the 3 or more children. Again- as you can see, with the nature of risk being what it is, regular screening is key.
How RNovations can help: RNovations Health is here to help. We provide community health seminars about managing conditions such as diabetes. There we assist people with learning the basics of their disease, medications, and treatments as well as how to make better choices one step at a time. We can help you with medication and nutrition review and counseling, that you can use to manage your health not only during the holidays, but every day thereafter. We also assist with health system navigation so that if you do need services, you are using the most effective mix of services. Give us a call at 804.386.4663 if you want to see how we can be of assistance to you or your group/community. You can also send us an email via the contact us page. We're here for you!
*The information contained above is for educational purposes only. Consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet or treatment regimen. Links provided above do not constitute and endorsement of any organization, rather that the information on the linked page has been verified.