Cervical Cancer - How Can I Reduce My Risk?
January 3, 2017
Each January is recognized as Cervical Health Awareness Month, spreading the knowledge about women’s health and how they can help prevent the development of cervical cancer and related diseases. Some aren’t as familiar with what cervical cancer is, or that there are precautions you can take to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. Here are a few facts to share with friends and family as we recognize Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Can Cervical Cancer be Prevented?
There are ways you can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. Thankfully there is a reliable screening test for cervical cancer -- the Pap Test. It’s important to visit your doctor and get screened since there are not always symptoms of cervical cancer in its early stages.
The Center for Disease Control suggests that women have their first screening performed at age 21. Your doctor will then guide you on how often to have the Pap test repeated in the future. If the test results are normal you may not need to go back for three years. The test is a simple swab of the cervix typically performed by a gynecologist or sometimes a general practitioner and really only takes a few moments. They will then send the sample to the lab where they’ll look for any cells that are abnormal. Abnormal cells don’t necessarily mean cancer, however.
Studies show that the most invasive forms of cervical cancers occur in women who have not received regular Pap tests, which means the test is doing it’s job and reducing the risk of developing an invasive type of cervical cancer.
Other ways you can help prevent cervical cancer from becoming abnormal including:
- Stop smoking
- Practice safe sex -- by protecting yourself you’ll be less likely to contract a common cause of cervical cancers -- the the HPV virus (human papillomavirus). Some strains of the HPV virus are linked to changes in the cervical cells that, if undetected, can increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
- HPV Vaccine - the American Cancer Society recommends getting the HPV vaccine around age 11 or 12, or up until the age of 26 in men and women. Be sure to talk with your doctor about this method of preventing cervical cancer.
As with many other types of diseases, maintaining a healthy diet and weight and exercising regularly can also reduce your chances of developing cancer by keeping your immune system from weakening. Since cervical cancer is generally slow-developing, keeping up with annual Pap tests is the number one way you and your doctor can detect any change in the cells in your body.
Many insurance plans cover the Pap test 100%. Find a place for low-cost Pap smears in the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver Washington area.