Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women worldwide. According to the CDC, in 2007, 12,280 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer. Out of those thousands diagnosed, 4,021 women in the United States died from the disease.
The sad part of is that cervical cancer is actually preventable. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. HPV is a common virus that spreads through sexual intercourse. And although many strains of HPV cause no problems, certain strains can actually lead to cervical cancer.
So how can you prevent contracting HPV and cervical cancer?
Following these tips can help you reduce your risks of contracting the disease.
Getting vaccinated, just like you would for any other virus, reduces your risk for contracting HPV. HPV vaccines are available for both males and females to protect against the types of HPV that most commonly cause health problems.
Two vaccines specifically, Cervarix and Gardasil, are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. If you are between the ages of 9 and 26 and you haven’t received your three doses of the vaccine, I suggest that you do that right away.
At least 50% of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives and getting vaccinated can limit your chances in particular of contracting the virus.
Try and schedule regular visits to see your gynecologist.
Even after getting vaccinated for HPV, women are encouraged to have regular Pap tests (or Pap smears), to look for pre-cancers, and cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
It’s recommended that you start getting regular Pap tests at age 21, or within three years of the first time you have sex (pretty much whichever happens first). The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available.
Other ways to lower your risk of contracting cervical cancer is to use condoms during sex, limit your number of sexual partners and to not smoke.
Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. But in the past 40 years, the number of cases and deaths of cervical cancer have decreased significantly.
Remember not to brush off anything that doesn’t feel right about your body. Seeing your doctor when you do notice changes with your body can also prevent the spread of HPV and cervical cancer.