The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 11, 2013

Speaking of Health: Cervical cancer: Knowledge is protection

By Okey Osuebi, M.B.B.S.
Mayo Clinic Health System

— According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with a form of gynecological cancer in 2009 – 12,000 of whom were diagnosed with cervical cancer.

This represents a significant decline over the past 40 years, largely attributed to broader awareness, regularly scheduled PAP smears and medical advancements. However, it is still important to learn more about the disease and continue taking preventive steps to ensure long-term health and well-being.

Q. What is cervical cancer?

A. Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (the cervix). It usually begins in the lining of the cervix, where pre-cancerous cells typically associate with the human papilloma virus (HPV) can form. Although HPV may progress into cervical cancer (or other genital cancers), it’s important to note that genetics, environment and lifestyle choices influence the development of cervical cancer.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Cervical cancer often produces no symptoms in the early stages, but certain signs may indicate that the disease has progressed. These include:

Q. What are the risk factors?

A. The major risk factors for cervical cancer include:

Q. How can I prevent cervical cancer?

A. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to address the risk factors proactively:

Knowledge and preventive measures are essential to protection and early detection, allowing HPV and other pre-cancerous cells to be treated before they develop into cancer. As always, please speak with a health care provider regarding any questions or concerns.

Okey Osuebi, M.B.B.S., is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Mayo Clinic Health System.

For more information, please go to

Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.