Women take cervical cancer detection into their own hands.
HEALTH Cervical cancer detection and prevention is an important subject. Without lessons in female human anatomy, people might be content to know that the cervix is somewhere "down there." Great if you got that much right because there are cervical vertebrae in the neck that are not the focus of this discussion.
Viewer Discretion: Resembling the tip of a baby bottle nipple turned upside down, the cervix is located several inches beyond the vulva, between the uterus and the vaginal tract. In fact, it's a neck-like opening of the uterus. During childbirth, the tiny cervix opening, normally the size of a pinhead, can expand to 4 inches (10 cm). The relative seclusion optimizes its location for incubating unexpected problems. A gynecologist can tell if there are any cervical concerns as part of a regularly scheduled visit.
Blame it on bad experiences, modesty, embarrassment, or fear of the unknown; there are women who only visit gynecologists under the most extreme circumstances. If you're a female apprehensive about ob-gyn visits, or are a doula, a midwife, yogini, or just curious between ob-gyn visits, it's now possible to view your own cervix in the privacy of your home without being a contortionist.
Women regularly interact with private anatomy for personal hygiene. Yet, the average female would likely be disconcerted to see the variable appearances of the cervix throughout the month. An enterprising woman has built a website called Beautiful Cervix Project that depicts a gallery of healthy and abnormal cervixes uploaded by visitors following her instructions for self-examination and photography.
Beautiful Cervix Project sells a kit, that includes a plastic duckbill speculum, lubricant, flashlight, mirror and instructions. (Effective, though lessor quality, gynecological tools. With some shopping, professional equipment can be found online for similar prices.) The kit allows ladies to see, optionally photograph (with assistance), and if desired, email pictures for the gallery. Follow instructions carefully and make certain any object inserted into your body is properly sanitized.
Personal Cervical Cancer Detection
While not encouraging amateur diagnosis, some women may be curious about the health of their cervix. The incentive could be heightened with a family history of cervical cancer or the presentation of these troublesome symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or post-menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Abnormal bumps or warts should be evaluated by a medical professional. Most cervical cancers are caused by various strains of the human Papillomavirus (HPV) — a sexually transmitted infection. Prophylactic HPV vaccinations are only effective if administered during virginity. For this reason, Pap smear tests are recommended every 2 years starting at age 21. With inexpensive equipment, women can get a glimpse of their own cervix prior to the customary 2-year test in order to detect anomalies earlier.
Women living with HIV are at a higher risk of cervical cancer and other cervical diseases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all HIV-positive women get an initial cervical Pap test, and get re-tested 6 months later. If both Pap tests are normal, then these women can follow up with yearly Pap tests.
Those in India without access to expensive tests are being trained to perform a visual examination using a procedure called the vinegar cancer test. Applying diluted vinegar to the cervix temporary alters the color of cancer cells.
Do your part to stay A Bit More Healthy by supporting January Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Comprehensive human anatomy posters about cervical cancer and the female reproductive system are available in our online store. Whether or not you decide to get up close and personal, if it's been a couple years since your last Pap test, this is a good month to make a gynecological appointment. Granted, the topic may have made you feel a bit uncomfortable, but early detection can be life-saving.
- Women Face Fear and Anxiety About Gynecologist Visits. womenshealth.about.com
- See Your Own Beautiful Cervix. beautifulcervix.com
- Cervical cancer symptoms. mayoclinic.com
- Pap test fact sheet. womenshealth.gov
- Vinegar Cancer Test Cuts Cervical Cancer Deaths by a Third in India; 'Amazing'. kpopstarz.com