Cervical Health Awareness Month
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
January 2007 - Cervical cancer is a disease caused by cancer cells growing in the cervix. The cervix is located in the lower part of the uterus or womb. The cells can divide without control causing a growth or tumor. This can grow into malignant tumors or benign tumors. The malignant tumors spread to other tissues and spread to other parts of the body and benign tumors do not spread.
The risk becomes greater when several factors are present. They include being female over 25 years, first pregnancy prior to age 20, smoking, multiple sexual partners, not having pap tests, history of precancerous condition and having a sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus. The earliest symptom is abnormal bleeding or increased vaginal discharge.
An annual pap test (a collection of cells from the cervix) can detect early precancerous tissues in the cervix. Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and is preventable, if detected early.
The Indian Health Service has a Government Performance Results Act measure for cervical cancer screening. The California average for pap screening in 2006 was 60%, 1% above the national average of 59%.
Remember, this disease is preventable in women, if detected early by receiving an annual pap screening test. If you have not received an annual test make an appointment for your check-up today.
For additional information:
American Cancer Society
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists