January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and because there is so much to talk about, we decided to make this our C.H.A.M. series.
Well, it's time for you to make that dreaded trip to your gynecologist's office for your annual well-check. Most women aren't sure what their doctor is doing "down there," however, they know it must be done.
Your annual appointment is one of the ways your doctor can make sure you are healthy. There are many tests and screenings that happen at your well-check, but in this post we're only going to focus on the screening for cervical cancer.
What is a cervix?
Basically, it's the door that separates your uterus and the outside of your body. The uterine cervix is a tubular structure that is about 3-4 centimeters long and about 2 - 3 centimeters wide.
What increases the chance of getting cervical cancer?
The biggest risk to getting cervical cancer is caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). There are hundreds of different types of HPV, but only few types cause cervical cancer. The virus is not airborne, but it is possible to get it through unprotected sex with an infected person. Smoking, a damaged immune system, obesity, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, can also increase your risk for cervical cancer.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Early cervical cancer and pre-cancer may not have any symptoms at all. Quite often symptoms like, abnormal bleeding, an unusual discharge, or pain during sex, can occur after cervical cancer has already started to spread into other parts of the body.
Is there a way to keep from getting cervical cancer?
Finding and treating abnormal, pre-cancer cells early before they become cancer has been an effective way for prevention. This can be done by getting screened on a routine basis. Not smoking, having safe sex, and getting the HPV vaccine are a few more ways to help prevent cervical cancer.
How do I get screened for cervical cancer?
During your PAP smear, your doctor will take a sample by rubbing a small brush on the surface of the cervix. This sample will be sent to the lab and examined under a microscope. They may ask you questions to see if you're at risk for cervical cancer, including your previous PAP smear results, medical history, and cigarette use.
Remember, routine screening is an important key to preventing cervical cancer. Make your appointment today.