Talking about your sex life and STIs can be uncomfortable, but avoiding these vital conversations is what's leading to an increase in cervical cancer occurrences. In honor of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we want to talk about what you can do to prevent cervical cancer before it's too late.
If you are or have been sexually active in the past, then chances are you have been or will be exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV) at some point in your life. You probably won't even realize it because there are no symptoms associated with an HPV infection, which is what makes it dangerous to your health.
HPV is a virus (different from HIV and the herpes virus) that is common enough that nearly all sexually active women and men get HPV at least once in their life. There are over 100 different types of HPV virus. The majority of HPV infections will spontaneously clear and show no symptoms, while others will cause warts or worse cervical cancer. HPV subtypes 16 and 18 are known to cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer. The less common HP subtypes that can cause cervical cancer also include: 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, 73, and 82.
Cervical cancer occurs at the cervix, which is the entrance to the womb or uterus. In cervical cancer, there is abnormal growth of cells on the cervix. Normally, cells have their own life span after which they die and are then replaced by new cells. However, abnormal cells (cancer cells) experience uncontrolled division and do not die. The result is that a tumor forms due to the accumulation of cells and the tumor is cancerous. Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer are bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, and in post-menopausal women. Other symptoms include smelly vaginal discharge, vaginal discharge with tinged blood, uneasiness during sexual intercourse, and pelvic pain.