“So what puts me at risk?” This is a common question asked when discussing cervical cancer. Risk factors are attributes that increase your chance of developing cancer. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer caused by abnormal cells in the cervix. According to the American Cancer Society, there were about 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in 2017. It’s important to understand what puts you at risk so you can take steps towards prevention.
Cervical cancer risk factors include:
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common risk factor and the main cause of cervical cancer and pre-cancer. The disease is spread by skin to skin contact including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Although some cases of HPV can be treated or cleared from the body naturally, high-risk types of HPV are linked to cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women. Other sexual diseases such as chlamydia can also lead to cervical cancer.
Overweight women are more likely to develop adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands of the cervix. It is important for a woman’s cervical health to maintain a healthy lifestyle, incorporating exercise and a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables.
Did you know that women who smoke are twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer? Smoking allows cancer-causing chemicals to be absorbed through the lungs and carried in the blood stream throughout the body. Tobacco by-products can be found in in the cervical mucus of women who smoke.
According to research, women who have had three or more pregnancies are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Also, moms who were 17 years old when they had their first full-term pregnancy are twice as likely to get cervical cancer later than women who didn’t get pregnant until 25 years or older.
If you are a woman in a family with a history of cervical cancer, it is very important to make your doctor aware. Also, women should receive a Pap test at age 21, and then typically every three to five years. Ask your doctor what they recommends as the best intervals for testing. You are two to three times more likely to get cervical cancer if your mother or sister had it.
Cervical cancer is one of the more treatable cancers if caught early. Without appropriate screenings, women cannot be treated for cervical cancers and pre-cancers and are at risk of developing cervical cancer. To schedule an annual exam or to find a primary care physician, please call 505-727-2727.