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Cervix cancer

Various factors encourage cervix cancer, but the most important by far is persistent human papillomavirus (HPV, or wart virus) infection combined with abnormal cells. This infection is almost always sexually transmitted and makes the cervix more vulnerable to other risk factors. Cervix cancer is rare in women who have never had sex.

HPV infection is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting one in three women in their 20s, for example and one in two women at some time in their lives. Although HPV is a wart virus the strains that cause cervix cell abnormalities, or cancer, do not usually cause warts on the cervix (or indeed the vulva). Each new sex partner increases your risk of catching HPV and the more partners your current partner has had, the higher the risk that he will give you HPV. Four out of five young women with HPV shake it off without medical treatment within a year and nine out of 10 within three years but many women become re-infected. If infection persists, the older a woman is, the less likely it is to clear spontaneously. The presence of abnormal cells also means it's less likely to clear. One recent study of women with a high-risk strain of HPV, found that 46 per cent of those with normal cells were infection-free within a year and 100 per cent within four but only 29 per cent of those with mild cell changes were clear within a year and 85 per cent within four.

While short-lived infection doesn't encourage cervix cancer persistent infection, or repeated re-infection does, especially if it's with the same high-risk strain. This could be because the state of the woman's immunity not only tends to prevent her from clearing the infection or resisting re-infection but also makes her more vulnerable to cancer triggers. Such triggers include the Pill and smoking (which stops certain protective cells working properly by 'switching off' the activity of P53 tumour-suppress or gene). The coexistence of Herpes simplex viral infection also encourages cancer.

All that being said, only a tiny fraction of women infected with one of the 13 high risk strains (meaning a high chance of being 'oncogenic' - or encouraging cancer) of HPV develop cancer. It develops, for example, in less than 1 per cent of young women infected with high-risk HPV In contrast, over 99 per cent of women who actually have cancer are infected with high-risk HPV (50 per cent with type 16 and 30% with types 18, 31 or 45) and low-risk HPV is rarely found in women with cancer.

Home Treatment and prevention of Cervix cancer

Most women with an abnormal smear certainly don't necessarily have cancer, however, their risk is raised. Depending on the findings and your history, you may need a repeat smear straight away, or more frequent repeat smears, until your smear is normal again. You may also need a colposcopy and, if necessary, a biopsy of your cervix.

It's likely that having an HPV test along with a routine smear will be introduced in developed countries in the next few years. One day, hopefully, there will be an HPV vaccine to help prevent infection.

Consider an HPV test if on the Pill - If you take the Pill, and suspect that you may have HPV infection (perhaps because you've had many sexual partners and haven't always used a condom) consider asking your doctor for an HPV test. The combination of the Pill and HPV encourages cervix cancer, so if you're HPV positive, it may be better to use another form of contraception.

No smoking- Smoking increases the risk of cervix cancer, so it's best to avoid it altogether - especially if you have a positive HPV test. It's possible, but unproven, that passive smoking increases the risk too.

Dietary changes - In addition to those mentioned in the general anti-cancer measures, eat plenty of foods rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and folic acid, as these are particularly associated with healthy cervix cells.

Medical Conditions

Gynae cancers
Oestrogen dominance
Oestrogen deficiency
Period pain
Mid cycle pain
Heavy periods
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Ovary cancer
Ovarian Cysts
Cervix cancer

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