Risk Factors/Signs and Symptoms

Research is increasing regarding what we know about cervical cancer. Scientists are learning more about its causes.

Following are common risk factors for the disease:

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection - The primary risk factor associated with Cervical Cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection. While a group of more than 100 related viruses comprise HPV, those that cause cancer are called “high risk” HPVs.

An HPV infection is normally passed from person to person through vaginal, anal or oral sex, however, all that is needed is skin-to-skin contact with someone infected. Many women may have HPV but may never develop cervical cancer. It is important to have pap tests to monitor your health.

Having HPV and any of the following factors increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer:

Birth Control Pills - Research suggests that long-term use of birth control pills increases the risk of cervical cancer. Although the risk increases the longer a woman takes birth control pills, the risk decreases after she stops.

Chlamydia Infection - Some studies suggest that women who have a past or current infection are at greater risk for cancer of the cervix.

Diet - Diets low in fruits and vegetables are linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) - DES, a hormone drug used between 1940 and 1971 for some women who were in danger of miscarriages, is associated with cervical cancer in the daughters of the woman who took this drug while pregnant.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) - Research is showing that those patients who have HIV seem to be more vulnerable as the immune system is less able to fight both HIV and early cancers.

Multiple Pregnancies/Early Pregnancy - A woman who has had 3 or more full-term pregnancies has an increased risk of this cancer. Also, women who were younger than 17 years when they had their first full-term pregnancy are almost twice as likely to develop cervical cancer later in life.

Smoking - Women who smoke are about twice as likely to get cervical cancer as the chemicals from tobacco products are carried in the bloodstream throughout the body to other organs.

Signs and Symptoms

Early cervical cancers normally do not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, a woman may notice one or more of these symptoms:

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding - Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse, after douching, after a pelvic exam and/or after menopause

Menstrual Period Irregularity/Increased Vaginal Discharge - A period that lasts longer or/and is heavier than before and/or an increase in vaginal discharge

Pelvic Pain/Pain During Sex - If pelvic pain increases and/or during sex pain exists, consult your doctor as this may be a sign of cervical cancer

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