This year, the American Cancer Society estimates doctors will diagnose more than 12,000 women in the United States with cervical cancer. The good news is there are steps you can take not only to catch and treat cervical cancer early, but to prevent its occurrence.
As we acknowledge Cervical Health Awareness Month this January, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about a screening regimen and ways you can improve your cervical health.
Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Several risk factors increase your chance of developing cervical cancer, though many women with these risks do not develop the disease.
It’s important for patients to focus on things they can change or avoid, like smoking, rather than those they can’t—like their age or family history.
Some risk factors include:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – a group of more than 150 related viruses, HPV spreads through skin-to-skin, such as through sexual activity.
- Having a weakened immune system
- Chlamydia infection
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Being overweight
- Long-term use of oral contraceptives (birth control) and intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies or being younger than 17 at your first full-term pregnancy
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) use – DES is a hormonal drug that was given to some women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage.
- Having a family history of cervical cancer