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What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?

Jan 06, 2023

What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?
Like other cancers, cervical cancer can develop for years before causing symptoms like back pain or weight loss. Since it’s cervical cancer awareness month, consider reviewing your risk factors and scheduling a screening today.

The lowest portion of your uterus is called the cervix: It’s the organ your gynecologist checks during every Pap test. Pap tests look for cell changes that could indicate cervical cancer or a pre-cancer. The Pap allows you to detect cancer in its earliest stages so you can get started on the necessary treatment. 

Since January is cervical cancer awareness month, our team of expert oncologists at Arizona Center for Cancer Care urges you to schedule a screening if you’re due for one. Even if your next Pap smear is a year or two away, you can benefit from reviewing the risk factors for cervical or ovarian cancer, which we’ll lay out for you in this blog. 

Arizona Center for Cancer Care provides diagnostic testing services for cervical cancer if you have an abnormal Pap test and can provide treatment to destroy the cancerous cells. Our offices are located in Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Anthem, Peoria, Fountain Hills, Wickenburg, Apache Junction, Sun City, Sun City West, Goodyear, and Tempe, Arizona. 

HPV — A primary risk factor for reproductive cancers

The dominant risk factor for cervical cancer is a current or past human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. A sexually transmitted disease (STD), HPV may or may not cause any symptoms (such as genital warts). While the infection itself is usually quite mild, it increases your risk of cervical cancer substantially.

There are certain types of HPV that are called “high risk” because they are the most likely to cause pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix. A Pap test can determine if you have HPV and what type you have.

HPV isn’t the only STD to increase your risk of getting cervical cancer — chlamydia does too. Though it isn’t as large of a risk factor for cervical cancer as HPV, chlamydia typically doesn’t cause symptoms for women, and the bacteria itself allows the human papillomavirus to thrive in your cervix. 

You can lower your risk of STDs and many more by being mindful of your sexual habits. Having more sexual partners increases your STD exposure risk, as does becoming sexually active at a young age. Condoms are the only form of birth control that can prevent the spread of STDs. 

Unhealthy habits put you at risk

If you’ve ever visited a physician of any kind, they’ve probably encouraged you to let go of unhealthy habits and improve your lifestyle with better eating and more health mindfulness. To mitigate cervical cancer risk, you should:

  • Stop smoking, as it increases your cervical cancer risk about twofold
  • Include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet
  • Visit your primary care provider for preventive care, and keep up with gyno exams
  • Use protection during sex

While you don’t have control over some risk factors like immunodeficiency or your family history, there’s almost always room for improvement in your everyday habits in relation to your health. 

Consider your choice of birth control

There are many birth control options out there, and several of them hold some influence over your cervical cancer risk factors. Although oral contraceptives are one of the most popular options, their long-term use could increase your cervical cancer risk. If you have a family history of cervical cancer or other risk factors that apply to you, stopping the use of oral contraceptives can bring your risk down. 

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) may actually lower your cervical cancer risk. These devices sit in your uterus where they release hormones or use spermicidal materials like copper to prevent pregnancy. Even after an IUD is removed, this benefit remains. Still, IUDs have their own risks, and you should talk to your gynecologist if you have any desire to change your current mode of contraception. 

Get your screening test today

It’s a new year, and there’s no better time to schedule diagnostic testing services for cervical cancer. Schedule your visit at our nearest office to screen for cervical cancer at Arizona Center for Cancer Care today.