January is cervical cancer awareness month, and, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) statistics, every year an approximation of 12,357 women in the United States (U.S.) are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,909 women in the U.S. died from cervical cancer. One-third of women diagnosed with cervical cancer unfortunately die; however, two-thirds have a higher survival rate with treatment, and of those diagnosed, most will be younger than 55.
Early detection is essential in diagnosing. Oftentimes, pap smears are avoided because of the intimidation and embarrassment. The fear is common when visiting the doctor for an annual pap smear examination but should not be avoided. "A pap smear can save a life!" Heather Rodriguez, CEO and founder of the Cancer has Cancer Foundation & Pinche Cancer, a web site that educates people about various types of cancer, knows first about the importance of early detection.
In 2010, at age 28, she was diagnosed with a less than 2 percent aggressive form of ovarian cancer. It’s important to listen to your body. “I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and I realized my body was telling me that something was wrong. Go get a second, third or even fourth and fifth opinion if you feel there is something wrong, you know your body best,” said Heather Rodriguez.
Furthermore, knowing the symptoms and being aware is important. Heather gave an exclusive interview regarding cervical cancer.
Are there any preventative steps?
An annual Pap Test which will notice any changes in cells in the cervix before it turns into cancer. The other one is the HPV vaccine and it prevents high risk strains of HPV in women, and certain medicines have been approved by the FDA for girls as young as the age of 9, but are recommended for girls 11-12 years of age. Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke, it's been proven that smoking increases the risk of cancer, including cervical cancer. And multiple studies show that women who have a higher number of sexual partner are at an increase risk for cervical cancer and developing HPV which can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
How often should women get a pap smear?
Annually, [women should] follow-up with OB/GYN with any irregular paps especially in the child bearing years. If a woman is older than 65 years old consult your physician on stopping the paps. If a woman has a regular pap for three or four years consult your doctor on how often you should have them done. Of all the gynecologic cancers the pap is the only reliable test, consult with your doctor if you believe that you are at increased risk for any gynecologic cancer.
How does cervical cancer develop?
As the National Cancer Institute explains, before cells in the cervix become cancerous they form a precancerous condition called cervical dysplasia, which is characterized by the cells developing genetic abnormalities without being fully cancerous. If the body cannot control the cervical dysplasia it may lead to cancerous cells.
How prevalent is cervical cancer, and is it more prevalent in a particular race?
According the NCI African American/Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Hispanic women have the highest cervical cancer incidence in the U.S.
Is there a particular diet that helps?
With all cancers and cancer prevention it is highly important to maintain well balanced eating habits. Please see my blog on recommended portions of daily dietary needs to prevent cancer:
What is the success rate of women who have early detection?
90 percent of cancer if detected early can result in a longer survival rate, which is why it is highly important to get regular paps and follow-up if they're irregular with your doctor.
What are the signs of cervical cancer?
Bleeding from the vagina is not normal when it's not your normal every 28 days menstrual period. Pain during sex is a major symptom. Vaginal discharge with blood, and [also] bleeding when something is in contact with the cervix such as sex or during a physician exam.
Self diagnosis is not advised. It is always best to consult with a medical doctor regarding symptoms and get an annual pap smear for detection. The best success rate is detection of cancer in an early stage.