Tami Griffith: January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. | SkyHiNews.com

Tami Griffith: January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Tami Griffith, CFNP-BC / Health Care Perspectives
Granby, CO Colorado

Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer for women throughout the world.

It was estimated that in 2010 there would be more than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer diagnosed and approximately 4,200 deaths in the United States related to this type of cancer.

However, cervical cancer is a slow growing cancer and is one of the most preventable cancers as well. Studies have shown that there has been a 2 percent decrease in US deaths per year due to regular testing.

The cervix is a narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. The portion of the uterus that extends into the vagina is called the ectocervix. The endocervix is the area of the cervical canal. Where the cells of the endocervix and ectocervix meet, this area is called the Transformation Zone. This is usually the area where abnormal cells or pre-cancerous cells develop.

Eighty to 90 percent of cervical cancer is due to Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is the second most common type of cervical cancer. Adenocarcinoma develops from glands that produce mucous in the endocervix. Adenocarcinoma appears more prevalent in younger women.


Human Paillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. There are over 100 types of HPV yet only 13 of those are considered “high risk”. By the age of 50, 80 percent of females have been infected with some type of HPV. However, the majority of females affected with this virus do not develop cancer. Over 90 percent of HPV virus types spontaneously resolve within 8-24 months.

That being said, HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is found in 99 percent of Cervical Cancer. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are two types that can cause Cervical Cancer.

Risk for acquiring HPV/Cervical Cancer:

1. Sexual Activity at a younger age: esp. if in teens or early 20’s, increase your risk of HPV

2. Multiple sex partners, beginning sex when you are younger.

3. HIV or other immunosuppressed disease

4. Smoking: the chemicals in cigarettes interact with cervical cells causing a precancerous change in the cells.

5. Birth control pills: extended use of birth control pills, (over 5 yrs), has been shown to increase the risk of Cervical Cancer.

Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer

Early in the disease process, there are little or no symptoms. However, the following signs and symptoms can be seen with advanced cancer:

1. Abnormal irregular bleeding, bleeding in between periods, bleeding after sex, bleeding after douching;

2. Pelvic pain with sex;

3. Heavy discharge with thin, watery, and odor noted;

4. Painful urination;

5. Increased urination;


The Pap Smear test was developed in 1941 and since that time has saved many lives. Over 55 million Paps are performed annually in the United States. Out of those, 3.5 percent are abnormal and need further evaluation. If the cancer is caught early, the 5 year survival rate is 100 percent.

It is currently recommended that individuals begin pap testing three years after becoming sexually active but no later than age 21.

If your last three paps have been normal, then you may only have to have a Pap Test every three years.

If you have had a hysterectomy due to benign reasons, have no cervix, and were not exposed to DES while in utero yourself, you may not need further Paps.

Some research states that if you are over the age of 70, and have had three normal paps consecutively, and no abnormal paps in 10 years, you may discontinue your Paps as well.

When is the best time to receive a Pap?

Schedule your Pap 10-20 days after the 1st day of your last menstrual period.

Do not douche, use a vaginal creams, spermicides, or vaginal medicines for 2 days before your test. These could wash away any abnormal cells or hide abnormal cells as well.

If your Pap results come back “abnormal,” your health care provider will determine what needs to be next, depending on the level of abnormality noted. This can range from a simple re-pap in a few weeks to a biopsy if needed.

Let 2011 be a Healthy Year for you. Call your health care provider today and schedule a “Well Woman Exam” … For the benefit of yourself and your family.

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