January Is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

[ 10 ] January 1, 2010 |

Did you all know this? Does anybody know this? Probably not. Why? Because cervical cancer gets NO PRESS. Almost none at all. There are pink ribbon campaigns, kitchen gadgets, Campbell’s Soup cans, purses, make-up…MANY items you can buy to support National Breast Cancer Month every October.

There are also huge Go RED campaigns run every February to promote Women’s Heart Health Month. Hell, they even integrate the Go RED campaign into the ABC soaps each year! Yes, goofy, painful lines said by favored soap stars about fixing heart healthy Campbell’s Soup, Preggo spaghetti sauce and the like for their on screen loves.

Even Oprah won’t mention it.

Honestly, it’s annoying to me.

Actually, it really pisses me off.

Now don’t go gettin’ yer knickers all in a twist…I’m not heartless — pun intended — I just get irritated when NO ONE talks about cervical cancer and the only press we do get is the negative kind having to do with the Gardasil vaccine. See, if you didn’t know this already, I am a cervical cancer survivor.

I was 11 weeks pregnant when the “lesions” and dysplasia were found. I was scared to death. I knew it was cancer. I just knew. It also didn’t help that a mere three months prior, one of my best friends, Angela, had gone from an abnormal pap result to a diagnosis of lesions to “you have an aggressive form of cervical cancer and need an immediate hysterectomy” in just a few short weeks. It was horrible.

And because of that, I had done a lot of research on this disease. So I knew my new diagnosis wasn’t good. Especially when the pap I had had just 6 weeks prior had come out perfectly normal. I was pregnant at that time, but we did not know it yet.

You can read more about my Cervical Cancer story here.

The point of this post, for me, is to raise awareness and get the word out, so to speak, about Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that 99% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV {Human Papillomavirus}? Did you also know that 80% of women will have had HPV in their lifetime? Or that HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex?

What is HPV?

It is a very common virus. There are more than 100 types. About 15 types can cause cervical cancer. Some types cause warts on the fingers or feet but do not cause cancer. Other types cause warts in the genital area that are not cancerous.

Some facts about HPV and Cervical Cancer:

  1. Definition of cervical cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  2. Almost all cervical cancer begins as an infection with the virus called HPV. An HPV test, which is done much like a Pap test, can detect the virus in cervical cells. Almost all HPV that affects the cervix is spread by sex (through intimate genital to genital contact including vaginal or anal intercourse, finger to genital contact, and finger to anal contact). It is rarely spread through oral sex. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners — even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
  3. The CDC estimates 11,270 new cases and 4,070 deaths from cervical (uterine cervix) cancer in the United States in 2009.
  4. HPV is the most important cause of and risk factor for cervical cancer. But studies have shown that other factors may act together with HPV to increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. These factors include cigarette smoking and having given birth to many children. Also, if you have a weak immune system, you may be at higher risk because your body may not be able to clear up HPV on its own. For example, if you take medicine to block your body’s immune response or if you have HIV, you may be at higher risk.
  5. There are more than 30 types of genital HPV, and most will clear on their own. But for some women who don’t clear certain types of the virus, cervical cancer can develop. And there’s no way to predict who will or won’t clear the virus. Only the high-risk types of HPV lead to cancer. Sexually transmitted, high-risk HPVs include types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, 68, and 73. These high-risk types of HPV cause growths on the cervix that are usually flat and nearly invisible, as compared with the external warts caused by low-risk types HPV–6 and HPV–11. HPV types 16 and 18 together cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers. It is important to note, however, that the great majority of high-risk HPV infections go away on their own and do not cause cancer.
  6. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.
  7. Both men and women can have HPV, and it is easily spread. Any type of genital contact with someone who has HPV can put you at risk — intercourse isn’t necessary. And since there are often no signs or symptoms, many people don’t know they are passing it on. There are about 6 million new cases of genital HPV in the United States each year.
  8. HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Although the degree of protection provided by condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer.
  9. Persistent HPV infections are now recognized as the major cause of cervical cancer. In 2007, it was estimated that 11,000 women in the United States would be diagnosed with this type of cancer and nearly 4,000 would die from it. Cervical cancer strikes nearly half a million women each year worldwide, claiming a quarter of a million lives. Studies also suggest that HPVs may play a role in some cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, and penile cancer (cancer of the penis).
  10. Studies have also found that oral HPV infection is a strong risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer (cancer that forms in tissues of the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat and includes the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils). Researchers found that an oral HPV infection and past HPV exposure increase the risk of oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer, regardless of tobacco and alcohol use, two other important risk factors for this disease. However, combining HPV exposure and heavy tobacco and alcohol use did not have an additive effect.
  11. Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery. In these cases, the child can develop RRP
  12. The surest way to eliminate risk for genital HPV infection is to refrain from any genital contact with another individual. For those who choose to be sexually active, a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent genital HPV infection. However, it is difficult to determine whether a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.
  13. You are at higher risk of getting HPV if you have had more than one sex partner, or if you or your partner has HPV, you will share it until your bodies’ immune systems get rid of the infection. If you have sex only with each other, you will not pass the HPV virus back and forth. This is because when the HPV goes away, the immune system will remember that HPV type and keep you from getting it again. Even though you are protected from one type of HPV, you are not protected from getting the many other types of HPV. Also, a woman who has had sex with a man who has had many sexual partners may be at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk of developing cervical cancer is higher because these women have a higher risk of HPV infection.
  14. If you are under age 30, getting an HPV and a Pap test together on a regular basis is not helpful. HPV tests can lead to unnecessary treatment, because HPV infection is very common in women under 30 and usually goes away on its own.This is why cervical cancer is very rare for women in this age group.

Other risk factors for contracting HPV:

  • Lack of regular Pap tests: Cervical cancer is more common among women who don’t have regular Pap tests. The Pap test helps doctors find abnormal cells. Removing or killing the abnormal cells usually prevents cervical cancer.
  • Smoking: Among women who are infected with HPV, smoking cigarettes slightly increases the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Weakened immune system (the body’s natural defense system): Infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or taking drugs that suppress the immune system increases the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Using birth control pills for a long time: Using birth control pills for a long time (5 or more years) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection. However, the risk decreases quickly when women stop using birth control pills.
  • Having many children: Studies suggest that giving birth to many children (5 or more) may slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection.
  • DES (diethylstilbestrol): DES may increase the risk of a rare form of cervical cancer in daughters exposed to this drug before birth. DES was given to some pregnant women in the United States between about 1940 and 1971. (It is no longer given to pregnant women.)

For more information or to help increase awareness about Cervical Cancer and HPV, click the button below.

Below is a list of posts about cervical cancer and how it has affected other lives. If you have also written a post about cervical cancer, please add your link to the list.

We are not alone.

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Category: Cervical Cancer

About the Author ()

I'm Shan and I 'm the creator of The Asylum and a magnet for The Free Range Stupid™. I'm a little nutty, a lot sarcastic and pretty damn smart. I am also a graphic designer, blog coder, virtual assistant, free lance writer and can whip you up a killer resume, media kit or press release that would make others green with envy. Go to Skewed Design Studios to check out my services. You won't be disappointed.

Comments (10)

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  1. Mama Zen says:

    Excellent, excellent post!

  2. Rob says:

    I had zero idea about this topic. Thank for sharing.

  3. Gena says:

    I think everyone should be aware and help others become more aware!

  4. Lora says:

    Thank you so much for doing this!

  5. Jacqueline says:

    That’s amazing it doesn’t get covered more as much as more women are coming down with this disease all the time. Thanks for putting such excellent information out there!
    .-= Jacqueline´s last blog ..Affordable and Beautiful Pearl Jewelry at Pearls Paradise Review and Giveaway! =-.

  6. Kasandria says:

    Thanks for all the great info! I did not know this and am horrible about going to “that” Dr., but need to. Thanks Shan!

  7. I had no idea! Once, about 5 years ago, I had some cancer cells that they took out, but I’ve had to have a regular checkup every year since. (I dodged a HUGE bullet there)
    I agree, this should be made more mainstream.
    Not just for us, but our daughters too! If we don’t have the adaquate info – how will they??

  8. thanks for the reminder I so need to schedule a pap appointment.

    My mil passed from cervical cancer…miss her so much
    .-= Night Owl Mama´s last blog ..Kalahari Wisconsin Dells: Traveling With Children (Part 1) =-.

  9. Jennifer Wooten says:

    Im a Stage IIIB cervical cancer surivor and I swear nothing annoys me more than this disease just being overlooked and ignored. Thank you for speaking up—TEAL IS THE NEW PINK

    • Shan says:

      AMEN! The only way our disease is going to get more press is if survivors like us speak up using social media to essentially shame the traditional media & corporations into recognizing cervical cancer & HPV as a real disease that hurts and kills women of all ages.

      Do you have FB? I made a FB timeline cover last year that I’ll be putting up January 1st. You’re welcome to use it as well to help spread the word. 🙂

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