Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, where the vagina connects to the lower part of the uterus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12,000 women every year in the United States receive a cervical cancer diagnosis.
Cervical cancer is a severe disease, and the women’s health specialists of Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN provide medical treatment and support every step of the way.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
In the early stages of the disease, many women don’t have signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
- Vaginal bleeding between menstruation
- Bloody, watery vaginal discharge with a strong, foul odor
Since there aren’t always symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer, it’s important to have regular gynecological checkups. This allows your women’s health specialist to check for an array of abnormalities and conditions.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Various strains of HPV, or human papillomavirus, can cause cervical cancer. HPV strains that are sexually transmitted can develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.
When you’re exposed to HPV, your immune system usually stops the virus from hurting you, but in some cases, the virus survives and contributes to cervical cancer forming.
To protect yourself from the sexually transmitted strains of HPV, you should:
- Practice safe sex
- Get an HPV vaccine
- Get regular screenings
Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Some of the risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Engaging in sexual activity at an early age
- A weakened immune system due to a health condition
- Having many sexual partners
- Contracting other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea
Early Detection and Prevention of Cervical Cancer
- Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. It looks for precancers and cell changes on the cervix. This test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 29 years old. If you are 30 years old or older you may choose to have a Pap test or an HPV test or both tests together. The Pap test looks for precancers, cell changes, on the cervix that can be treated, so that cervical cancer is prevented. The Pap test also can find cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective.
- If the cells collected from your cervix during your Pap test look abnormal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but it tells your doctor that other tests need to be done for confirmation, such as a colposcopy
- The Pap test only screens for cervical cancer and does not screen for any other gynecological cancer.
- The HPV test looks for HPV–the virus that can cause precancerous cell changes and cervical cancer.
Treatment Options for Cervical Cancer
Your women’s health specialist of Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN can treat cervical cancer in the early stages with a hysterectomy, a surgery to remove the uterus.
Your women’s health specialist may recommend other treatment options, such as radiation or chemotherapy, as well as medications to relieve associated pain.
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Women’s Health FAQs
Gynecology focuses on caring for women through the various stages and transitions of life from puberty to adulthood. Gynecologists focus on the medical care of females’ reproductive systems and health concerns.
Gynecology includes the diagnosis, treatment, and preventive care of conditions relating to a woman’s reproductive system, including the vagina, uterus, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes.
Gynecology also includes screening and treating problems with a woman’s breasts.
Your women’s health specialists counsel you on your contraception options, provide annual check-ups, answer your questions, and help with your female sexual health concerns.
While a general physician can treat specific women’s health issues, the Newton-Wellesley Obstetrics & Gynecology team specializes in expert care for women and their unique health concerns.
Your Newton-Wellesley gynecologist also monitors the same conditions as your general practitioner and pays particular attention to how these conditions, such as diabetes, impact your reproductive organs.
Your Newton-Wellesley gynecologist can also diagnose gynecological conditions, such as:
- Cervical Cancer
- Vaginal Infections
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases
The Newton-Wellesley OB/GYN doctors also perform surgery when required.
A well-woman exam is an annual gynecological check-up to monitor your reproductive health. It’s an integral part of your preventive care.
During the exam, your women’s health specialist examines your reproductive organs, performs a Pap smear, offers tests for sexually transmitted diseases, conducts a breast exam, and can discuss your contraceptive options. Our providers also take the time to review your general health with you, including discussions on exercise, nutrition, mood disorders, and stress management.
For women who are at a higher risk for certain diseases and gynecological conditions, the physicians at Newton Wellesley OB/GYN recommend more frequent well-woman exams.
General exams should begin at age 21 or sooner if there is a specific gynecologic concern. If you are sexually active before age 21, exams should start as soon as you are sexually active.
Typically, patients must come in at least once a year for their exam. Risk factors may make it necessary to come in for multiple visits during the course of a year.
It is important for women to have a gynecologic appointment with their provider every year as a preventive health care measure.
Your provider will do a Pap smear and HPV (human papillomavirus) test, along with a pelvic exam to screen for any pre-cancerous conditions before they can turn into cervical cancer.
Gynecology allows women’s health specialists to dedicate the necessary time and expertise to care for women through all stages of life.
A gynecologist can offer specialized medical support and help women through menopause and other life changes. Many patients receive life-long care.
Patients should start getting mammograms at age 40. Patients who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer should get these diagnostic procedures done earlier.