As its name implies, cervical cancer is cancer that begins in the lower portion of the uterus, the so-called neck of the uterus that connects to the vagina. About 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
Most cervical cancers are caused by a type of virus called the human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a relatively common virus that is easily transmitted from one person to another during sex. In fact, it's so common that nearly everyone – women and men – will be exposed to the virus at some point in their lives. The virus itself typically causes no symptoms. There are dozens of types of HPV, but only a fraction of them can cause cancer. HPV can also cause other problems, such as genital warts.
Aside from having HPV, other risk factors include:
having multiple sex partners, especially when young
you smoke or are exposed to smoke or similar pollutants
you've used birth control for a prolonged period
you have another health condition that can weaken your immunity
Regular pap tests are the primary way cervical cancer is detected. A cervical cancer exam takes a small sample of surface cells from your cervix for examination under a microscope. This sample can help determine if either cancerous or precancerous cells are present. Dr. Bickman will also look for abnormalities during your routine exam. HPV tests are also important to determine if you have the virus which can place you at greater risk for the development of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer screening should be done annually as part of your routine gynecological exam.
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