What does Cervical Health Awareness really mean to you? Living in a digital age with "Dr. Google," some information surrounding the conversation of cervical health is believed to be misguiding, while other sources provide us with the knowledge we need to make informed decisions. It's important above all else to have these conversations to undo the misconceptions and not remain stagnant.
Millions of people (especially women) are affected by conditions of the cervix. While some conditions are more common and less severe than others, it's important to get screened and consume the proper nutrients along with lifestyle practices to avoid the extreme. What some may not know is that cervical cancer is highly preventable with proper care. There are critical actions you must take to increase your chances of preventing cervical cancer.
Consider this conversation an introductory course to cervical health, and a self-empowering approach to discovering what happens when we silence the noise around your body, and your health.
Cervix Anatomy 101
The #cervix is part of the narrow opening to the uterus, that extends from the vagina. This small entrance is indeed a big deal. Commonly, menstrual fluid and seminal fluid pass through the cervix, but it is capable of expanding enormously during labor and birth.
Have you ever wondered, "What does my cervix look like?" Perhaps, this is the first question we should ask ourselves. How can we share common stories without understanding the beauty of the womb and all its intricate details?
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When visiting your doctor, be sure to ask what does your cervix look like, and what natural things you can do to protect your cervix. The answers lie within the questions we don't tend to ask because we are nervous, afraid, or intimidated.
The most common precursor to cervical cancer is known as the human papillomavirus (HPV) which affects nearly 80 million people in the United States. There are nearly 200 types of HPV - roughly 30 affect the genitals, and 14 are classified as "high risk" leading to cervical cancer if gone untreated
High-risk, oncogenic HPV types (including HPV 16 and HPV 18) are associated with 99.7% of all cervical cancers, and low-risk HPV types (HPV 6 and HPV 11) are responsible for additional abnormal Pap test results, as well as almost all cases of genital warts
HPV is believed to be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, sexual activity, (and in rare cases) from mother to an unborn child
Every year, nearly 12,000 women living in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer—even with screening and treatment.
Black women have a higher rate of cervical cancer associated with #HPV than white women
The more you know about your cervical health and preventative methods, the more power you'll possess to make decisions that are best for your well-being. It is important to have a comprehensive diagnosis and consider all of your options for managing cervical health.
The Pap test (Pap smear) looks for precancerous cell changes on the cervix that might become #cervicalcancer if they are not treated appropriately. These precancerous changes to the cells on the cervix's surface is known as cervical dysplasia. The common cause of dysplasia is the presence of one of the strains of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV.
The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. Because none of the currently available HPV vaccines protect against ALL HPV infections, it is important to know your diagnostic treatment options and preventative methods, networks and support groups that can shed light on your next steps. With low-risk HPV, the body will heal on its own and cervical cells go back to normal as the infection clears. In some cases, however, the grade of cervical dysplasia can worsen (aka high risk). Without treatment, advanced cervical dysplasia can progress to cervical cancer. Generally speaking, pap smears are recommended for women aged 21-29 every 3 years, and co-testing (Pap smear + HPV test) every 5 years for women 30-65.
When it comes to screening, 80 percent of success is simply showing up. Meaning, do not "fear the smear!" There are lots of myths and stigma which can cause shame, fear, and confusion.
"Is HPV vaccination the best option for me?"
"I've never had a Pap Smear, should I be nervous?"
"I'm a nervous wreck, what are my risks if I don't get screened?"
" Most people do not know that they have HPV. Having HPV or an abnormal pap smear does not mean that you are a dirty or nasty person. " - KaTina M. Poe, APRN, CNM
If this were a real course, here's where your homework would come in. Since knowledge of self is true empowerment, we encourage you to know the power that you have. While vaccinations are the most common clinically prescribed method of prevention, there are healthy lifestyle actions to help aid in prevention or treatment through nutritional means.
Do you know of your options? Let's face it, the line between diagnosis and prevention can be blurred. Here's what we do know:
Ways to Prevent Cervical Dysplasia:
Abstinence and/or limiting sexual partners
Practicing safe sex
Avoid the use of oral contraceptive birth control
Use organic feminine hygiene products
Get an Annual Well Woman Exam
Get Pap smears as recommended ( don't ever be ashamed to tell your healthcare provider of any concerns or possible exposures to HPV)
Cervical Dysplasia Prevention Through Nutrient Therapies:
Folate (Vitamin B) - Avocados, chickpeas, strawberries, oranges...
Turmeric (Curcumin) - Look for high-level curcumin - curcumin is the main active ingredient of turmeric
Carotenoids (Vitamin A) - Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash...
Flavonoids (Antioxidants) - Leafy green vegetables, beans, dark fruits...
"Listen to your body, be proactive and make sure you are following up with Pap smears on a regularly basis" -Elexis Mitchell, APNR
As always, talk to a trusted doctor about your options for prevention, treatment, and awareness. Find someone who will spend time explaining and answering all your questions.
What works it you may not work for someone else, and therein lies the beauty of knowing your rights, your body, and your cervix individuality.
What does cervical health awareness (#cervicalhealthawareness) mean to you?