People often think of cervical cancer (cancer of the cervix) when the subject of cervical health comes up, but there’s more to maintaining good cervical health than cancer prevention.
The condition of the cervix can significantly impact a woman’s reproductive life and overall health, sometimes with damaging results. It’s vital therefore that all women, from the beginning of puberty until menopause and beyond pay close attention to cervical health.
The cervix is a thick, rigid area in the lower part of the womb (uterus). It is the neck of the womb. The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina and has a narrow opening that stretches to accommodate a baby’s head and body during childbirth. The opening of the cervix (cervical canal) allows menstrual blood from the uterus to flow out into the vagina and, sperm to enter the uterus from the vagina during sexual intercourse.
In rare cases, some women are born with abnormalities of the cervix such as double cervix or no cervix at all. Both conditions can affect their ability to have children. More common problems with the cervix include inflammation, problems with the function of the cervix, and abnormal growths or changes in the cells of the cervix.
Common problems of the cervix:
- Cervicitis – inflammation of the cervix usually as a result of infections
- Cervical Incompetence – a condition during pregnancy in which the cervix opens before the baby is due
- Cervical polyps and cysts – abnormal growths on the cervix
- Cervical cancer
These can cause a variety of symptoms such as pain, vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding (during intercourse or between menstrual periods), and painful intercourse or sometimes no symptoms at all. They may also lead to difficulty in childbearing.
Like many conditions, most cervical problems are easy to treat if caught early. Some require no treatment at all while others like untreated cervical infections, for example, can cause major complications.
When a condition of the cervix results in childbearing difficulties, it often sets off a cascade involving emotional stress, relationship issues, additional healthcare costs and financial strain.
At the very least, even a minor cervical infection can affect your quality of life somewhat while an infection with a high-risk human papillomavirus can lead to cancer of the cervix, costing you your life.
In our next blog, we’ll examine common cervical problems in detail.