January is cervical cancer awareness month and I am here to spread the word!
So here are a few things you need to know.
HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. More than half of all sexually active men and women have or have had HPV at some point in their life. Sometimes it is harmless and clears up without the person even knowing they had HPV. Other times it can cause genital warts, or like in my case, they can cause cervical lesions that can develop into cancer if left undetected.
Only 40% of women ages 18-75 have ever heard of HPV. I am determined to increase this percentage.
More than 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year. One third of them will die.
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011. I've had two sexual partners in my lifetime, I only drank on special occasions, I've smoked a total of maybe two packs of cigarettes my entire life, I'd been married to the same man for 22 years. I was on the chubby side most of my life, but enjoyed eating fresh food from the farmers market.
After my third daughter was born, I ceased taking birth control pills, as I knew they made me a higher risk for breast cancer. And because I had been married to the same man for 12 years, I did not think it important to have my annual pap smear. When I finally got around to it, in 2009, it was because I was having discomfort in my pelvic region. Nothing too painful, but I was taking care of my husband after a motorcycle wreck, and I didn't want to be one of those women who neglected herself because they were caring for others. I had heard that story many times, and I like to learn from others mistakes.
So I went to my doctor of 20 years and he did a pap smear. Then he sent me over to the hospital that very day to have a vaginal ultrasound to check my ovaries. They poked around and prodded and he said my ovaries were fine and I went home. I never called back to see what my pap smear result was. Fast forward two years and I have vaginal bleeding during intercourse. I return to my doctor and he immediately tries to get me to a specialist. No one he knows is on my insurance. So I get myself an appointment with a Women's Clinic and they immediately send me to the Gyn-Oncologist.
My regular doctor faxes over some paperwork and there, on the side of my 2009 pap smear results, it shows that I had a bad pap smear, and they tried to reach me by phone and didn't get hold of me.
Never mind they had my mailing address and managed to send me bills. Never mind that I had been in the office numerous times in those two years with my daughters and/or husband.
You cannot count on someone else to take care of you. You cannot trust others to know what is best for you. You have to take charge of yourself, you have to advocate for yourself, you have to demand good care for yourself.
HPV can be contracted from one partner, remain dormant, and then later be unknowingly transmitted to another sexual partner, including a spouse.
HPV can infect anyone who has ever had a sexual encounter. HPV is spread through skin to skin contact, not through the exchange of bodily fluid.
Learn more about HPV and cervical cancer at www.nccc-online.org. They provided me with the facts for my post today.