It’s never too late to learn about preventing cervical cancer. Each year over 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with this condition, the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Over 500,000 new cases are diagnosed globally every year.
Fortunately, widespread use of the Pap test to detect and treat abnormal cells in the cervix has led to a decline in cervical cancer deaths. Yet more than 4,000 women still die from this preventable disease annually.
So what can women do to protect themselves from cervical cancer? Here are four health tips.
Get a Pap test.
The Pap test, commonly performed as part of a woman’s routine preventative exam, is a proven means to identify abnormal or precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. If abnormal cells are present – also called cervical dysplasia – your healthcare provider will closely monitor your cervix and possibly do treatment to prevent further cell changes that could become cancerous over time if left unchecked.
Consider the HPV test.
In women 30 years of age and older, the HPV test may also be performed by your health care provider to identify any of the high-risk types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that are most commonly found in cervical cancer. Some 80 million Americans currently have HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection and a major cause of cervical cancer.
HPV vaccines are recommended for girls and boys at age 11 to 12 years old. In addition, HPV vaccines are also recommended for teen boys and girls who didn’t get the vaccine when they were younger, teen girls and young women through age 26, as well as teen boys and young men through age 21. Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms, and go away on their own. However, being vaccinated before exposure to the HPV virus helps protect women against cervical cancer and the precancerous lesions that precede it.
Further reduce your chances of getting an HPV infection.
For sexually active women, condoms – when used correctly and regularly – may lower the risk of HPV. Other factors that have been reported as contributing to cervical cancer include smoking, multiple sexual partners, and certain other sexually transmitted infections.
Be well, stay well!
~ Pharmacist Andy