Cervical cancer can be prevented with screening tests. The test, a Pap smear, can detect the disease before it becomes cancer. Pap smears have been proven to be an effective screening method for cervical cancer, and it is recommended for women to begin receiving them at age 21. Early detection is extremely important, as the outcome of all cervical cancer is affected by the stage detected. When caught early, treatments are less radical and harsh.
Since almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), another effective method of preventing the disease is to receive the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is most effective when given before an individual becomes sexually active. It’s recommended for girls and boys younger than the age of 12. Women can also now get the vaccine before they turn 40, which also decreases the chance of the virus leading to cervical cancer.
Because early detection is key, it is important for women to schedule regular annual visits with their OB/GYN and to be sure to mention any unusual symptoms they have been experiencing. Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Abnormal bleeding that’s not part of their normal menstrual cycle. This can include bleeding after sex or an abnormal discharge.
- Pain after sex.
- Pelvic pain.
Women should listen to their bodies, and if they feel things just aren’t right, talk to their doctor right away.
Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health’s Cancer Center has a dedicated, exceptional network of OB/GYN specialists and other related women’s health experts dedicated to helping women with cervical and other gynecological cancers.
Emma Rossi, MD, is a gynecologic oncologist with Cone Health Cancer Center and originates from Brisbane, Australia, where she completed her undergraduate and medical school training at the University of Queensland. She completed an OB/GYN residency at Northwestern University in Chicago, followed by a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Following fellowship, Rossi served as assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Indiana University where she was an interim fellowship program director in gynecologic oncology. In 2015, she returned to UNC-Chapel Hill where she is faculty and assistant professor with the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.