Cervical cancer

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Any sexual intercourse can increase your risk for cervical cancer, a common female cancer that affects the cervix (SIR-vicks). Other risk factors include sexual activity that begins in the early teens, multiple partners, certain types of human papilloma (pap-ih-LOE-muh) virus or genital warts, smoking, and possibly herpes. Fortunately, cervical cancer is usually detectable through regular Pap tests, and when treated early, is almost always curable. Using condoms can reduce the likelihood of contracting this disease. In its precancerous stage, cervical cancer typically has no symptoms. That's why a yearly Pap smear is so important. Pap smears can detect precancerous changes of the cervix, before invasive cancer develops. If the changes are moderate to severe, the precancerous cells can be killed by freezing, burning, or laser techniques, or sometimes removed by a cone biopsy. When the cancer becomes invasive, it can eventually spread to other parts of the body. Even invasive cervical cancer usually has no symptoms in the earliest stages, but can cause vaginal bleeding after intercourse, spotting between periods, pain during intercourse, or a bloody discharge. Treatment usually involves surgery and/or radiotherapy; sometimes a hysterectomy is needed, where the uterus, cervix and possibly the fallopian tubes are removed. For more information on cervical cancer, consult a health care provider.

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