The human papillomavirus (HPV) and the herpes simplex virus type II (HSV II) are both causes of cervical cancer, with HPV being the most likely culprit. Both viruses are passed from person to person through sexual contact. Sexual activity before the age of 18 and having multiple sexual partners (or having a partner who has had multiple partners) will increase the risk of getting cervical cancer.
There are no early symptoms of cervical cancer but as it advances, the following can occur:
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
- Irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods or after menopause. At first it may be very slight, but as the disease progresses, bleeding becomes more constant.
- Increased vaginal discharge.
- Dark and foul smelling vaginal discharge (because of necrosis and infection of tumor mass).
- Pain is not one of the symptoms of cervical cancer until it reaches the late stages. There is excruciating pain in the back and legs.
How to Help Prevent Cervical Cancer
Incidences of cervical cancer and death rates have declined over the years, mostly because of routine Pap smear test screening. Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that has well-defined precancerous stages. If detected early, there is a good chance of preventing cervical cancer.
Don’t smoke. Women who smoke ten or more cigarettes per day are three times more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Long-term use, five years or longer, of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) increases the adverse effects of smoking and decreases vital nutrients, including vitamin C and folic acid.
Women who have low levels of vitamin C are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women with adequate levels. Vitamin C enhances the immune system and inhibits carcinogen formation.
Other important nutrients include folic acid, beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and selenium.
Limit the consumption of animal products, particularly animal fats.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a vaccine (Gardasil) against HPV to prevent cervical cancer. There are over 100 types of HPV and about 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the HPV vaccine. There are concerns about its safety.
 M. Krause and L. Mahan, Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy, 7th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1984).
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