4 Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer
The cervix is probably not a body part you think of very often. However, cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for women around the world.
Located at the bottom of the uterus, the cervix is the opening between the vagina and the uterus. Because it’s such an internal part of the body, a woman can have cervical cancer and not realize it until the later stages. Fortunately, when diagnosed at an early stage, this type of cancer is highly treatable.
Here are 4 ways you can prevent cervical cancer.
1. Get your HPV vaccine.
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and most who are sexually active will get HPV at some point. However, the infection usually has no symptoms and the body is often able to clear the infection on its own. It’s when the body is not able to deal with the infection that can lead to cervical cancer.
That’s why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that both males and females receive the HPV vaccine. This helps to stop the spread of the virus. If you’ve never received your HPV vaccine, talk to your provider.
2. Use condoms.
If you’re sexually active, use condoms. This limits the spread of HPV between you and your partner(s).
3. Get regular Pap smears.
Early cervical cancer is often without symptoms. That’s why routine cervical cancer screening is so important, even if you’ve received the HPV vaccine. During a Pap smear,` a soft brush is used to collect cells from the cervix. The cells are then viewed to see if there are any changes that could lead to cancer.
Pap smears are recommended for most women starting at age 21, regardless of sexual activity. Routine Pap smears are typically recommended every 3 years from age 21-29, and then every 5 years from age 30-65. Your provider will help you decide how often you should be screened based on your health history.
4. Talk to your provider if you notice changes.
If you experience anything out of the ordinary, like abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, talk to your provider as soon as possible. The symptoms for cervical cancer are not the same for everyone. It’s always best to address changes in your health that could point to a bigger issue.
If you have any questions, talk to your primary care or OB-GYN provider. If you don’t have a provider, establish care at St. Luke’s.