ThedaCare Health Matters

Cervical Cancer Screenings are important

January is Cervical Cancer Screening Awareness Month. In previous articles, we have talked about cancer prevention in general and specifically cancer of the colon and breast. This article focuses on cancer of the cervix. Cervical cancer is unique to women and there are techniques to screen for and prevent cervical cancer.

Cancer of the cervix was one of the leading causes of cancer death in women in the early 1900s. As techniques were developed for early detection and treatment, cervical cancer deaths have dropped dramatically. Currently, the number of deaths due to cervical cancer is well below the deaths from lung, breast or colon. It is estimated there were 12,820 new cervical cancer cases and 4,210 deaths in 2017 in the United States. It is estimated about 6 out of 1,000 women will develop cancer of the cervix in their lifetime.

Cancer of the cervix occurs when cells at the opening to the uterus (womb) degenerate and invade into normal tissue. As you will remember, cancer is defined as cells that grow abnormally and invade healthy tissue. The cells of the cervix seem to behave abnormally when they become infected by a virus known as human papilloma virus or HPV. There are over 150 HPV viruses that have been identified. These viruses are known to cause warts. Certain types are more likely to cause cervical cancer. These viruses are spread through skin-to-skin contact primarily through sexual encounters.  

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