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Your Healthy Family: Know the risks and subtle warning signs of cervical cancer

Posted at 1:45 PM, Jan 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:34-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month.  Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.  It’s a disease that is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening.

Dr. Dirk Pikaart, a specialist in gynecologic oncology with UCHealth Memorial,says some women are at more risk than others.  “About 6,000 women die from cervical cancer a year in the United States. Cervical cancer is something we can catch in the pre-cancer stages before its development, so we can treat the pre-cancer disease and prevent cervical cancer from ever happening.”

Dr. Pikaart also says there are some women who are more at risk than others.  “Some of the risk factors are sexual activity, and multiple sexual partners as well as cigarette smoking at an early age can put a person at risk.  Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a virus called human papillomavirus virus, or HPV. HPV most commonly is sexually transmitted and is very common in the population, and you can be exposed to the virus and not know it.”

If you fall into one of those risk groups it’s important to have regular screenings because cervical cancer can be a silent killer.

Dr. Pikaart explains, “One of the problems is that early on, cervical cancer is asymptomatic.  It’s very hard to catch early on based on symptoms alone. Pre-cancer of the cervix often doesn’t cause any symptoms as it develops.  Some of the more common symptoms are vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding or abnormal menstrual cycles.”

Before the month closes out, we’ll have more with Dr. Pikaart talking about screenings, how simple they are, and even how you can get them if you have no insurance or don’t have a doctor.  He will also talk more about getting vaccinated for HPV. If you have questions, follow up with your doctor.

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