Sometimes it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to take care of family, job and self. But that’s exactly what the Centers for Disease Control are asking of women this month.
January is cervical cancer awareness month, and it’s critically important to take a moment to protect your health. The warning signs of cervical cancer are typically not obvious, which is why it goes undetected often in those who do not make a regular habit of setting up well-woman visits. And because cervical cancer doesn’t usually have typical warning signs, it can be advanced before it’s detected.
Here’s what you need to know:
- How serious is cervical cancer? Very! Early-stage cervical cancer typically has no signs or symptoms. Cancer cells can invade nearby organs and tissue and can break off from a tumor to spread elsewhere in the body – all long before it’s caught.
- Late-stage warning signs can mimic other women’s health issues like menopause or irregular periods. Cervical cancer may cause bleeding, but if you already have irregular periods, this may not seem like a big deal. Often, this cancer does not cause pain itself. Sometimes you may have bleeding after intercourse, between periods or even after menopause. Watery, bloody vaginal discharge may be heavy and have a foul odor is another symptom of advanced stages. Be aware of pelvic pain or pain during intercourse too.
- According to the World Health Organization, the most common cause is human papillomavirus (HPV). Roughly 70% of cervical cancers are caused by just two strains of this sexually transmitted infection.
What can you do about prevention?
- Cervical cancer is preventable. Sexually transmitted diseases are no one’s favorite topic, but they are important to know about. Fortunately, we have a vaccine available to help prevent HPV. Doctors recommended that young men and women, 9 to 26 years old, be vaccinated against HPV.
- All women – including LGBTQ women – should get regular exams and screening. Do not let fear of discrimination, bad experiences with doctors in the past, and misinformation about cervical cancer keep you from taking care of your personal health. Adelante was recently recognized as one of the top-rated healthcare facilities for inclusivity.
- Speaking of screenings… no one really likes their annual well-woman visit, but it’s a critically important appointment. Make a habit of scheduling an annual pelvic exam and a periodic Pap test (the physicians at Adelante will talk to you about how often you need a Pap).
Habits to create:
At Adelante, we know it’s hard to squeeze in time for yourself – especially when it’s for a gynecological visit. Consider using these tips to create new habits:
- Each year, set your appointment for the following year before you leave the clinic. It’s harder to set your next annual appointment when you leave and life takes over again.
- Consider making the appointment on a special date each year that’s hard to forget, like the first day of the kid’s school, your birthday, anniversary or the first of January – cervical cancer awareness month!
- Make it a girl’s day out. Make a pact with a friend to set appointments for the same day, then do something fun afterward.
- Do it in remembrance of a loved one. Cancer has touched us all in some way. Remembering your own health – for the sake of your family and friends – in honor of a loved one you’ve lost is the best tribute.
So all the self-care and health stuff you put on hold the last couple of months to get through the holidays? It’s time to bring it to the top of the to-do list! If you need to make an appointment, call us 480-964-2273