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January 26, 2024

Cervical cancer awareness isn't just for January

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Cervical cancer awareness isn't just for January

Cervical cancer impacts many individuals and families across the world.

It’s the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide and the fourth highest in cancer-related deaths. The United States sees about 11,500 new diagnoses and 4,000 deaths of cervical cancer annually.

The good news is that screening and prevention efforts can positively affect these numbers.

In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, check out the quick facts below and share the information with your loved ones. After all, education can be a powerful catalyst of change.

  • Ways to help prevent cervical cancer:
    • Start routine HPV vaccination at ages 11 to 12, through age 26.
      • Preventing HPV may reduce your risk of cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about recommended dosing schedules.
    • Start routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeat every three to five years.
    • Practice safe sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
    • Don’t smoke.
  • Risk factors for cervical cancer:
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.
    • A history of smoking.
    • Three or more full-term pregnancies.
    • Use of oral contraceptives.
    • A high number of sexual partners.
    • Sexually active at an early age.
    • History of sexually transmitted infection.
    • Some autoimmune diseases.
    • A weakened immune system.
    • Exposure to miscarriage prevention medication.
  • Get screened for cervical cancer through routine Pap tests:
    • Twenty-one to 29-year-olds should have a Pap test every three years.
    • Thirty to 65-year-olds should have a Pap test every three years, an HPV test every five years or an HPV/Pap co-test every five years.
    • If you’re older than 65 years, please speak with your healthcare provider to decide what is best for you.
    • Your healthcare provider may recommend alternative screenings based on your risk factors. Sharing your complete health history with them can help determine the best schedule for these screenings.
  • Common symptoms of cervical cancer:
    • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause.
    • Menstrual bleeding is heavier and lasts longer than usual.
    • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor.
    • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
  • Cervical cancer diagnoses:
    • A biopsy of the cervix
    • Transvaginal ultrasound
    • May need a CT scan or PET scan, if indicated
  • Treatment options for cervical cancer can depend on the cancer stage:
    • Cone biopsy
    • Surgery to remove the cervix and sometimes the uterus
    • External beam radiation therapy
    • Brachytherapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Clinical Trials
  • Tips for healthcare appointments when you have cervical cancer:
    • Make a list of questions before the appointment and bring them with you.
    • Take someone with you to take notes so you don’t forget what the provider says.
    • Be open with your provider about any changes or concerns you have.

January may be Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, but this health concern affects people year-round. Share the information above and help make a change.


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