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Cervical Cancer Symptoms and Risks

Symptoms

  • There are usually no symptoms of pre-cancerous cervical changes
  • Late in the disease there can be vaginal discharge, bleeding or pain

Risk Factors

  • Infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a virus transmitted through sex, is the most important risk factor for
    cervical cancer
  • Early age of first intercourse
  • Greater number of lifetime sexual partners
  • Cigarette smoking

Statistics

  • Each year 15,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer
  • About 85% of women, older than 18, in Iowa have had a pap test in the last three years

Tests

  • Pap tests can detect changes in the cervix before they become cancer
  • Women should have a Pap test at least once every three years
  • Pap tests should begin approximately three years after a woman begins having sexual intercourse, but no later than
    at 21 years old
  • Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) do not need to undergo Pap tests, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for precancerous cervical changes or cancer
  • Women with abnormal pap tests often have a colposcopy done (this test uses an instrument like a microscope to carefully examine the cervix)
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