According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there were 1,550 Canadian women diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2017 – and more than one-quarter of them died from the disease. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Here are all the facts on everything there is to know about early detection, treatment and prevention.

Early Detection is Key
Identifying, diagnosing and treating cervical cancer in the early stages is directly linked to higher survival rates. According to the Institut National de Santé Public de Québec, screening should begin at age 21 and women should have a regular pap test every three years, unless otherwise indicated by a physician. Pap tests remain the easiest way to spot and diagnose cervical cancer and can make all the difference in the outcome for a patient.

What Are the Warning Signs?
While regular screening is important, women should also be familiar with the warning signs of cervical cancer and bring up any concerns they may have with their gynaecologist right away. Here are some unusual symptoms to pay attention to, according to the Canadian Cancer Society:

  • Pink, brown, or bloody discharge between periods
  • Unusually long or heavy periods
  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Painful intercourse
  • Bleeding after menopause
Remember that early detection is critical. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have not recently had a pap test, see your physician and share your concerns.

How is Cervical Cancer Treated?
The treatment options for patients with cervical cancer will vary depending on age, stage of the disease, general health, and even the patient’s own personal preferences. Treatment can be a partial or complete hysterectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.

Prevention Starts Today
Cervical cancer is often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that affects both men and women. The ideal way to stop the spreading of HPV is to use condoms with unknown partners and to get the HPV vaccine. Ideally, prevention begins before young men and women begin being sexually active. Today, adolescents between nine and 15 years of age are encouraged to get the vaccine. The Canadian Government estimates that more than 70 per cent of sexually active Canadians will contract HPV at some point in their lives. There are more than 100 strains of the virus and each can cause different complications – cervical cancer being one of them.

For Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, share this article with the women in your life. If you have any concerns, see your doctor, or visit cancer.ca for more information on screening guidelines, prevention tips, and more.