Did you know that January is Cervical Health Awareness Month? While most of us are familiar with the term “cervix,” many are unfamiliar with the I functions of this organ. In honor of Cervical Health Awareness month, get to know your cervix – this is an excellent opportunity to learn more about why the cervix is so essential, and how to keep it healthy.
The Role of the Cervix Simplified
The cervix, located between the uterus and vagina, plays a vital role in female reproductive health. The cervix is a narrow, cylindrical organ that helps protect the uterus from infections. . Without a healthy cervix, reproduction wouldn’t be possible. Around ovulation, the cervix produces mucus that is thinner and less acidic than usual, to make it easier for sperm to travel to, and fertilize, the egg. During pregnancy, the cervix protects the baby and uterus with a mucus plug; when it’s time for childbirth, the mucus plug dissolves and the cervix widens so the baby can exit the uterus.
The Risk of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer originates in cervix cells and can become malignant over time. It usually develops slowly, starting with precancerous abnormalities, which are typically caused by certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infections are prevalent. According to some estimates, more than 70% of people between the ages of 15-49 have had at least one type of HPV infection in their lives. Risk factors for developing cervical cancer include having multiple sexual partners, smoking, having a weakened immune system, or having HIV/AIDS. However, anyone with a cervix can be affected by this type of cancer. Practicing regular screening measures such as Pap smears and HPV testing is important.
Symptoms and Prevention Strategies
Early detection is crucial when it comes to preventing cervical cancer. While cervical cancer, especially in the early stage, may not cause symptoms, symptoms can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (after sex, between menstrual cycles, or after menopause)
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain
- Unusual discharge, sometimes with an unpleasant odor
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV, since most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV infections. Vaccination is recommended for boys and girls aged 11-12, but can be given up until age 45 and older if advised by your doctor. Additionally, regular HPV screenings and pap smears, and practicing safe sex habits such as using condoms or dental dams during intercourse, are critical to preventing cervical cancer.
This Cervical Health Awareness Month get to know your cervix. The importance of it cannot be overstated. It reminds us how vital our cervix is and why preventative actions like getting vaccinated against HPV go a long way in preserving our overall health. With this knowledge, let’s make 2023 a year full of informed decisions about our reproductive health!
Make your cervix the center of attention. Learn more about how Seattle Clinical Research Center can help maximize your health in the new year! Visit our website or contact us at (206) 522-3330 extension 2 to learn more and sign up for future studies – you won’t regret it!