Cervical cancer is a serious disease that kills thousands of women every year. It’s estimated 13,240 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. and 4,170 women will die as a result of cervical cancer this year. Fortunately, more awareness of cervical cancer and its risks helped incidence rates drop by 50 percent between 1975 and 2014. To increase awareness even more, January was named Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Cervical Cancer: Are You At-Risk?
You should be aware of the following major risk factors linked to cervical cancer:
- History of cervical cancer – If you or someone you are directly related to (mother or sister) has had cervical cancer, then you’re more at-risk.
- HPV – HPV is typically a harmless and temporary infection, yet it’s also the most common cause of cervical cancer. Anyone can get an HPV infection through sex, and most people never know they’re infected.
- Oral birth control – Long-term oral birth control pill use can increase your risk of cervical cancer.
- Poor diet – A diet lacking in vitamins A, C, E, and carotene can increase your risk of cervical cancer, as will being overweight.
- Smoking – Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical women than those who do not.
- Three or more pregnancies – The risk of cervical cancer increases if you’ve had three or more full-term pregnancies.
Getting Screened for Cervical Cancer
You should make sure to get screened regularly for cervical cancer, especially if you are at-risk. You can get screened with a Pap test as well as with pelvic exams, colposcopies, and biopsies. If you are sexually active, then you should be tested for HPV as well. An HPV vaccine is available, although it needs to be administered before an infection occurs and only protects against the most common strains (there are 13 types that can lead to cervical cancer).