All women, regardless of age, need to be thinking about cervical cancer. In fact, a recent report on cervical cancer posted by the CDC noted the following connections between age and cervical cancer risk:
- About one woman out of 20 between 66 and 70 years old has never been tested
- An older woman who has not had a hysterectomy, until she’s in her 80s, is at least as likely to get cervical cancer as a younger woman
- The older women get, the more likely it is that they have never been tested or haven’t been tested in the previous five years
- Cervical cancer incidence rates increased with age
Types of Cervical Cancer
- Up to 90% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas
- Cervical adenocarcinomas develop in the glandular cells of the cervix
- Small cell cancers tend to grow very fast and are the most aggressive type of cervical cancer. They account for less than 1% of all cervical cancers.
Advanced cervical cancer is more difficult to eliminate, and it may not be possible to cure a patient of the cancer. Women over 65 should continue to get screened for cervical cancer.
Signs of Cervical Cancer
- Unusual vaginal bleeding after intercourse or between periods or after menopause
- Pelvic pain or other pain can also occur during intercourse
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy or have an odor. It can also begin with just spotting.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms of cervical cancer, please schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or gynecologist for testing. Once the cancer has spread away from the cervix into other regions of the pelvis or involves lymph nodes, it has become Stage III and it’s more difficult to treat.
There are two methods for testing. First is the Pap test or “smear.” Recommendations are that young women begin screening with this test at the age of 21. Follow-up screenings should be done every three years, regardless of the age of onset in sexual activity.
The second test screens for Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Abnormal cells will develop after contracting HPV. If it does not clear on its own, the risk of cancer increases.
What is a Cervical Cancer Prevention Plan?
- General cancer prevention for all cancers should start with a preventive diet. This includes eating foods that are high in phytonutrients in your diet and limiting or completely avoiding sugar and processed foods.
- Regular exercise plays a role in preventing most cancers.
- Avoid or quit smoking.
- Practice safe sex and limit your number of partners to decrease the chance of HPV exposure.
- There are currently two vaccines available to help prevent certain types of cervical cancer: Gardasil and Cervarix.
Have questions about a cervical cancer treatment plan? In addition to your healthcare provider or gynecologist, Hyperion Functional Medicine is here to answer them.