The MaineHealth network of providers offers complete services for all gynecological cancers, including cervical cancer. Ask your doctor about cervical cancer screenings called Pap smears as part of a routine physical exam. Patients can get the HPV vaccine that prevents most cervical cancers. The combination of the HPV vaccine and annual screenings are the best protection against cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cancer of the cervix is caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. It is spread through sexual contact. Cancer develops when abnormal cells form in the woman’s cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, or womb.
Cervical Cancer Signs Vary
Women may have irregular periods, or feel pain in the pelvic area. Often there are no symptoms at all. Here are common signs:
- Bleeding between periods or after sex
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex
Cervical Cancer Testing and Prevention
Cervical cancer is a serious health threat to women, but can be prevented with a Pap smear test and an HPV vaccine. Routine screenings are important in early detection and reducing cervical cancer deaths, even when there are no symptoms.
Pap tests detect changes in the cervix before cancer has the chance to develop. Women can schedule a Pap smear test with their family or primary health care provider, or with their ob-gyn doctor.
HPV test is a follow-up test to the Pap test, when further evaluation is needed. The HPV test also is a general cervical cancer screening that may be used for women who are 30 and older.
Colposcopy is a follow-up exam for women who have an abnormal Pap test.
Treating Cervical Cancer Early Helps Outcomes
Treatment for cervical cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer. Common treatments include:
• Surgery can include a hysterectomy
• Targeted therapies
• Clinical trials
What is the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV shot can help reduce cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer from occurring in the first place. The shot protects against HPV, an infection spread through sexual contact. Talk to your provider about the HPV vaccine for yourself or for your adolescent child.