Understanding Your Pelvic Floor and Cervix
The female pelvic floor includes the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, cervix, bladder, urethra, pelvic floor muscles, clitoris, vagina, and rectum, and is made up of three main muscle groups. These muscles have a range of important functions, including supporting the pelvic floor organs, stabilizing connecting joints, aiding in urinary and fecal continence, assisting in sexual performance, and helping with the birthing process.
In recognition of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this January, we’re driving awareness to the function of the cervix and the importance of Cervical Cancer prevention and early detection.
The cervix is a cushion of tissue that sits at the top of the vaginal canal, between the vagina and uterus, and is part of the female reproductive system. The cervix is only about 3-5 centimeters thick and 2-3 centimeters across, and has many functions. These functions include acting as the gateway to the uterus where sperm can enter to fertilize eggs, assist in keeping unhealthy things out of your body, and help during pregnancy to keep the baby stable in place until it’s fully developed. The cervix plays a pivotal role during childbirth by preventing preterm labor and letting the body know when to dilate at the right time, so a baby can be born vaginally. While each cervix is different, they all still go through changes in shape during different times, like the follicular phase, ovulation, luteal phase, sex, pregnancy, and during a Pap smear.
Almost 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers, which is why it’s imperative to get screened regularly. Screening means checking for a disease before symptoms are present. Cervical cancer screening is an important part of routine health care for people who have a cervix and includes Pap and HPV tests. Pap tests, also called Pap smears, are very effective tests for finding abnormal cells on your cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. Pap tests find cell changes caused by HPV but don't detect HPV itself. An HPV test looks for some high-risk types of the human papillomavirus, including types 16 and 18, which cause most cases of cervical cancer.
Depending on the stage of the disease, there are various possible treatments for cervical cancer. During the earliest stages, surgery or radiation combined with chemotherapy are commonly used. For later stages, radiation and chemotherapy are the most effective treatments.
Be sure to get screened for cervical cancer regularly. Early detection is key!