Cervical cancer can affect women of all ages and walks of life, including many celebrities like Erin Andrews and Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins. Learn more about the dangerous disease, how to detect it, and how you can prevent it, here.
In the wake of Jessi Zazu‘s death at the age of 28, it’s more important than ever to educate yourself about the risk factors and treatment options for cervical cancer. Jessi, the lead singer of Those Darlins, suffered from the aggressive disease and had been battling it since 2016. It had spread to her lymphatic system, and as she said in an emotional December 2016 video, it was a “no cure” situation.
She’s not the only celebrity who’s been touched by the disease. Country singer Joey Feek, 40, went through a long, public battle with cervical cancer in 2016, chronicled on her husband Rory Feek‘s blog. Fans saw every facet of her experience, from her doctor visits, to hospice care, to the last moments she spent with her toddler, and her eventual death. ESPN host and Dancing With The Stars contestant Erin Andrews revealed in January 2017 that she had undergone surgery for cervical cancer in 2016!
1. What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. It can be caused if a woman if infected with a high-risk type of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted through sexual contact with someone else who has it. An estimated 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year; approximately 4000 of those women pass away.
2. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
The symptoms of cervical cancer vary, and include: bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause; pain in the lower belly or pelvis; pain during sex; and vaginal discharge that isn’t normal. Some women may not experience any symptoms at all, which brings us to our next point…
3. How is cervical cancer detected?
Cervical cancer can often be treated if it’s found early. Gynecologists recommend women get pap smears every one to two years for overall reproductive health; if the test comes out abnormal, your doctor can do further testing to determine the problem (HPV or other). You can also get the HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, which protects you against the high-risk type of HPV that causes most cervical cancer cases. Gardasil targets four strains of HPV, but it isn’t effective if the person already has the virus. The vaccine is recommended for children 11-12 years old and comes in three courses. Above all, keep an open dialogue with your doctor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
4. How is cervical cancer treated?
The most common forms of treatment are chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy, depending on how advanced the cancer is when detected. Surgical treatment might include a hysterectomy, a procedure in which the uterus is removed. Another route could be removal of the pelvic lymph nodes with or without removing both ovaries and the fallopian tube.
Erin Andrews underwent two surgeries, and though she didn’t reveal exactly what procedures she had done, she did share that after her second operation, doctors told her radiation and chemotherapy wouldn’t be necessary.
5. Who is most at risk for cervical cancer?
Aside from HPV, there are several other risk factors for cervical cancer. The cancer effects middle-aged women more often that younger women, though there are exceptions — Jessi, for example. The average age for people with the cancer is 48. Women with a history of cancer face the highest risk. Smokers and women with compromised immune systems, or infections like chlamydia are also at a higher risk.
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