Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer among women worldwide, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all women are at risk. Thankfully, it is also highly preventable. Below are ways you can prevent cervical cancer and signs to look for.
Get a Regular Pap Test
What is a pap test? A pap test or pap smear is a gynecological exam in which your physician will collect and test the cells in your cervix. The cells are examined under a microscope and screened for cancerous characteristics. This test can decipher if the cell changes in your cervix could become cancerous in the future. Abnormal pap smear test results can deter the development of cervical cancer. Our physicians follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recommendations and encourage women to have their first pap test at age 21 and once every three years thereafter.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) screening and prevention
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that generally clears up in 2 years without presenting symptoms. However, infections that persist beyond this period may begin to harm the cervical cells. Over time, this can cause cervical cancer. HPV is one of the most significant risk factors for cervical cancer – especially in women 30+. For women over 30, our gynecologists recommend a combination of the pap test and HPV test. A vaccine is available for boys and girls and should be given ideally around age 11 or 12.
Make lifestyle changes
As with many other cancers, avoiding tobacco use and eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, will help protect you from cervical cancer.
Know the signs and symptoms
- Unusual vaginal discharge, including bleeding
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pelvic pain not related to your period
Women of all ages must conduct well-women visits regularly. Testing, good lifestyle choices, and vaccines can help prevent cervical cancer. Request an appointment with a Baptist Health OB/GYN today.