Health Care

6 Cervical Cancer Myths

A Daughter Her Senior Mother Who is Battling Cancer

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Each year, an estimated 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. And sadly, about 4,000 of them die from the disease. We’re here with our expert OB/GYN, William Bradfield, MD, FACOG, to point out common misconceptions about cervical cancer, along with the truth, as we encourage women to schedule screenings.

Myth: Infections Can’t Cause Cervical Cancer

Truth: According to Dr. Bradfield, “Cervical cancer is one of many cancers that certain bacterial, viral and parasitic infections can cause.” Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of most cervical cancers.

Myth: Vaccines Can’t Protect Against Cervical Cancer

Truth: “The HPV vaccine protects against the kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer,” explains Dr. Bradfield. However, it’s important to note that HPV can cause cancers other than cervical cancer in both men and women. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive the first dose of the HPV vaccine between ages 11-12 and the second dose six months later.

Myth: You Don’t Have to Get Screened for Cervical Cancer Until You’re 40

Truth: “Regular cervical cancer screenings should begin at age 21. A cervical cancer screening can be performed with a Pap test (also known as a Pap smear),” Dr. Bradfield says. Your provider can also screen for cervical cancer with an HPV test.

Myth: Cervical Cancer Causes Missed Periods

Truth: Cervical cancer does not cause missed periods. Dr. Bradfield points out, “One of the earliest symptoms of cervical cancer is increased frequency, volume or duration of vaginal bleeding.”

Stage 1 cervical cancer symptoms include:

  • Periods that are heavier or last longer than normal
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause
  • Vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor

Myth: Cervical Cancer Causes Miscarriage

Truth: Because of the location of cervical cancer, it’s normal to wonder: can cervical cancer cause miscarriage? Dr. Bradfield is here to answer that question. “If you are pregnant and have cervical cancer, know it rarely will affect your unborn baby. Cancer treatments, however, can impact the baby. Cervical cancer shouldn’t cause miscarriage, but procedures or therapies to treat the cancer could,” he says.”

Myth: Cervical Cancer Symptoms are Easy to Spot

Truth: Early signs of cervical cancer are typically mild. And even when women experience sudden changes to their periods, they don’t usually recognize them as signs of cervical cancer.

“Unfortunately, most women won’t know they have cervical cancer until they’re diagnosed by their doctor, which is why regular screening is so important,” Dr. Bradfield reminds us.

Protect Yourself and Loved Ones from Cervical Cancer

One of the best ways to ensure your family doesn’t develop cervical cancer — or other forms of cancer caused by HPV) — in the future is to vaccinate our children according to CDC guidelines.

It’s also crucial to take care of your health by scheduling routine well exams and having cervical cancer screenings at regular intervals to detect signs of cervical cancer early. Dr. Bradfield and our team of women’s health experts at AdventHealth Zephyrhills are here to help you stay healthy and feel whole.

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