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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



The symptoms of cervical cancer, and how to be tested for it

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, so if you’re one of the 13,170 women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019, know that you’re not alone.

Cervical cancer starts when cervix cells begin to mutate and grow out of control without dying, creating a tumor. One of the most common reasons this happens involves human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in existence and can evolve into cervical cancer.

Today, there’s a vaccination for HPV that most insurances cover if you’re under the age of 26. HPV does not always lead to cancer; however, it’s still good to take a preventive approach and ask your doctor about it the next time you go in for a checkup. Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP) Members can contact our friendly Customer Service team directly at 800-346-4643 (TTY: 711) to confirm coverage.

Who is most at risk for getting cervical cancer?

You may have experienced cervical cancer yourself, or you may be familiar with it through the experience of a loved one or friend. However, some women have no experience with it at all and may wonder if they are at risk.

Cervical cancer generally affects women between the ages of 35 and 44 and is considered rare in women under 20 or over 65. That being said, women of all ages are still at risk. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and testing for cervical cancer.

Symptoms of cervical cancer

If it’s detected early enough, women with cervical cancer have a 92 percent five-year survival rate. If undetected, it can grow and affect other parts of the body, so early detection is essential to recovery. Being aware of the symptoms is a first step to prevention.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Bleeding. This includes having a menstrual cycle that is heavier and longer than usual, vaginal bleeding between periods, spotting or bleeding after menopause, and bleeding after intercourse.
  • Pain. If you’re experiencing pelvic or lower back pain during intercourse, or pain that doesn’t seem to go away, call for an appointment.
  • Vaginal discharge. If you notice blood, a strange odor, or discoloration in your vaginal discharge, you may want to speak with your doctor. Lifestyle factors can also affect your discharge, so this may be fixable by changing your diet or making other changes. However, it’s better to confirm with your doctor since this is a very common symptom of cervical cancer.

Testing and diagnosis for cervical cancer

If you experience any of the symptoms listed, call your doctor’s office for an appointment. Your doctor may recommend a Pap test and/or an HPV test, both of which can be done at your doctor’s office.

With each passing year, cervical cancer is becoming less common. Your doctor may have already spoken with you about importance of regular Pap smears and discussed the HPV vaccine with you, but be sure to ask any questions you have at your next appointment. It’s important to know and recognize the symptoms, and together, you and your doctor can battle this disease.