Cervical cancer is associated with a virus called HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer, and over 10,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Fortunately, cervical cancer is preventable and there are things you can do to help lower your risk of HPV as well. Here are some of the best tactics for preventing HPV and cervical cancer.

Safe Sex

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, and over 150 different types of the virus exist. To protect yourself from HPV, practice the following habits for safe sex:

  • Limit sexual partners: Your risk of contracting HPV increases with each sexual partner you have. Because of this, you should also avoid intercourse with people who have had many sexual partners in the past, as their chances of having HPV are higher.
  • Delay sexual activity: Doctors recommend not engaging in sexual activity until the late teen years or later.
  • Use condoms: Condoms do not totally eliminate your risk of HPV, but they lower it significantly.
  • Avoid intercourse with infected partners: If your partner has visibly obvious genital warts or other signs of HPV, avoid sexual intercourse.

Screening Tests

There are three primary tests that screen for cervical cancer:

  • HPV Test: During this test, a sample of cells is taken from your cervix and tested for the presence of HPV. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends at least one of these tests in a lifetime, but encourages women between the ages 25 and 65 to get an HPV test every five years. Most women are able to stop testing at age 65 if they haven’t had positive tests in the past.
  • Pap test: Also known as a Pap smear, this test uses the same sample of cells from the cervix as an HPV test. However, in Pap tests, these cells are tested specifically for the early cell changes that typically lead to cervical cancer.
  • Bimanual pelvic exam: This is a physical examination done by a doctor. Your doctor will look for changes to the vulva outside the body, and examine the the vagina with an instrument called a speculum—this holds open the walls of the vagina, allowing your doctor to feel the uterus and ovaries and check for any problems.
pap smear
HPV vaccine

Vaccines

While there is no cure for an existing HPV infection, there are several types of vaccines that can help prevent it. These often depend on your age and the type of HPV you’re looking to prevent. Vaccines work best when given before becoming sexually active but they can still be effective after.

Smoking

Smoking may increase the risk of cervical cancer in women who have HPV. Secondhand smoke may also affect your risk. Eliminating smoking is another way to significantly lower your risk of cervical cancer.

If you’re concerned about your risk of HPV or cervical cancer, speak to your doctor to find out your best prevention and screening options.

Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.

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Sources:

“Cervical Cancer – Screening and Prevention.” Cancer.net. http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/screening-and-prevention

“HPV and Cancer.” Cancer.net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/prevention-and-healthy-living/hpv-and-cancer

“6 Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer.” VeryWell.com. https://www.verywell.com/cervical-cancer-prevention-513831

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