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If You Have a Cervix, Get Screened for Cervical Cancer

Zing Health
Posted by Zing Health on Jan 5, 2022 10:15:00 AM

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month. If you’re over 65 you may be wondering if you still need to be screened regularly for cervical cancer.

 

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects the vagina to the upper part of the uterus. Even if you have gone through menopause, if you still have your uterus, you can develop cervical cancer. In fact, more than 20 percent of cervical cancer cases are found in women over 65.

 

What Are the Risk Factors?

Cervical cancer is most often caused by a virus called human papilloma virus, or HPV. HPV is passed from one person to another during sex. Because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms, most people who are infected don’t even know they have it. HPV can cause changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer over time.

Other risk factors for cervical cancer are:

  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Smoking
  • Having given birth to three or more children
  • Having several sexual partners
  • Having had sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia

Do You Need Screening?

Doctors use Pap smears to screen for changes in the cells from your cervix that could lead to cancer if untreated. They are generally given every three years. You doctor can also test you for strains of HPV that are more likely to cause cervical cancer.

If you are over 65, have had normal Pap smears for several years, and are not at high risk for cervical cancer, your doctor may tell you that you no longer need to have a Pap smear. It is important to be honest and open about your risk factors so you and your doctor can make the right choice for you.

 

What Are the Symptoms?

Early on, cervical cancer may have no symptoms. That is why Pap smears are important. Later, cervical cancer may cause bleeding or a discharge from your vagina. If you have gone through menopause, you should have any vaginal spotting or bleeding you notice checked by your doctor. You might also have pain during sex or pain in your pelvic area. Advanced cervical cancer might even cause problems when you urinate or have a bowel movement, and it can cause blood in your urine.

 

Where Can I Learn More?

Check out these websites to learn more about cervical cancer:

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Topics: Zing Health, Seniors, Medicare Advantage, preventive care, cancer screenings, Blog, women's health