Cervical Health Awareness

January 19, 2016 at 3:45 am  •  1 Comment

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It is estimated that 500,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, with most women diagnosed between the age of 40 and 50. And while the rate of cervical cancer has been on the decline since the 1970s due to early detection with the PAP smear, it is still the second most common cancer in females age 50 and younger and it is the leading cause of death from cancer in women who live in developing countries. I will explore the risk factors and some preventative strategies in this blog.

Risk Factors

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, known risk factors for cervical cancer include HPV or Human Papilloma Virus infection, smoking, oral contraceptive use longer than 5 years and a weakened immune system. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. While your body will clear most HPV infections on its own, some strains of HPV can cause cervical dysplasia; the growth of abnormal cells on the cervix which may lead to cancer. Reduce your risk for cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer by getting regular PAP smears which can help your doctor detect cervical changes early and provide the necessary treatment.

Smoking

If you smoke, speak to your primary care provider if you need assistance to quit. Cigarette smoke contains carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals which stimulate abnormal growth of the cells lining your cervix. Smoking also decreases your immune system’s ability to clear HPV infections from your cervix. The longer an HPV infection stays in the body, the more likely it is that damaging cervical changes will occur.

Folate

A diet high in folate may lower your risk for cervical cancer and improve the health of your cervix. Folate or B9 is a B vitamin that is mainly found in green leafy vegetables. Foods high in folate include calf’s liver, romaine lettuce, beets, spinach and broccoli. If you are a woman of child-bearing age, take a supplement that contains the methyl form of folic acid, 5-MTHF. Folic acid is essential for healthy cell division and for the prevention of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

Vitamin D

vitamin-dVitamin D deficiency is a wide spread problem in North America that should not be taken lightly. Vitamin D blocks the growth of cancer cells on the cervix and healthy blood levels of this sunshine vitamin strengthens the body’s immune response. If you live in the northern hemisphere, wear sunscreen and work indoors, you will most likely need to take a supplement. Request a blood test to check your levels of 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D and aim to maintain your blood levels between 100 and 150 nmol/L.

Cruciferous Vegetables

These vegetables from the Brassica genus of plants are known for their cancer-fighting chemicals. Indol-3-Carbinol and Sulphoraphane are the two most commonly researched. In one study, cruciferous vegetables were found to be more effective than placebo in reducing abnormal cell growth on the cervix. These common vegetables including watercress, broccoli, cauliflower, rapini, cabbage and bok choy should be incorporated into your diet if you haven’t done so already. Folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and beta carotene are also found in cruciferous vegetables and may contribute to the cancer protective benefit that they provide.

Green Tea

Health Benefits of Green TeaGreen tea is derived from the plant Camillia sinensis. The polyphenols contained in green tea are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties. One of these compounds, EGCG, has been shown in laboratory studies to halt the growth of cancer cells on the cervix. Both oral intake in a capsule or powdered form as well as the topical application of green tea extract to the cervix show promise in the prevention and treatment of cervical dysplasia.

If you are concerned about your cervical cancer risk, be sure to speak with your health care provider about your options including regular PAP screening and vaginal exams. Your naturopathic doctor can order blood tests to screen for nutritional deficiencies and determine which supplements and herbal extracts are right for you. Consume fruits and vegetables high in folate, vitamin C and beta carotene and reduce your exposure to toxins including cigarette smoke.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com