The United States Congress has designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. During January, The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) and its many local chapters across the country highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection.
Cervical cancer prevention should be a top priority for all women. Women can take simple steps to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer. Small lifestyle adjustments combined with medical care go a long way in preventing cervical cancer.
Practice Safe Sex
Safe sex is not only essential for preventing pregnancy, but also for sexually transmitted diseases like the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus and is the primary cause of most cases of cervical cancer. You can reduce your risk of being infected with HPV by using a condom during sexual intercourse. A condom won’t provide 100 percent protection against HPV, but studies show that condoms do provide some protection against HPV.
Limit How Many Sexual Partners You Have
Practicing safe sex is more than just wearing a condom. It also means limiting the amount of sexual partners you have in your lifetime. Having multiple sexual partners increases your risk of being infected with HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Get Screened Regularly for Cervical Cancer
Getting a regular pap smear is a highly effective way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer. The pap smear is a simple test that can detect abnormal cervical changes long before they become cancerous. The key to the effectiveness of the pap smear is having it done regularly. How often you need a pap smear varies from woman to woman, based on age, previous pap smear results, and your cervical cancer risk factor. Always consult with your doctor about how often you should be having pap smears. If your pap smear results are abnormal, be sure to follow up with your doctor’s recommendations. This could mean more frequent pap smears or a colposcopy, an exam that allows the cervix to be viewed more closely.
Be a Non-Smoker
Simply put, smoking offers no health benefits. It is common knowledge that smoking affects the lungs, but did you know that smoking can affect your cervix? Studies show that smoking can actually speed up the process of cervical damage caused by HPV. Quitting now greatly reduces your risk of several types of cancer, including cervical cancer.
Get Immunized Against HPV
HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus known to cause cervical cancer in women. Fortunately, there is an approved vaccine that not only protects against high risk strains, but also against two strains known to cause genital warts. Gardasil is available to women under 27, with a target age of 11 to 12 years of age. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over a course of six months. It is most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active.
Ladies, make sure to make cervical cancer prevention a priority for 2017!