January Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer among women worldwide; in the United States alone, around 13,000 cases are diagnosed yearly. With such high rates, you are most likely asking, “How can I prevent cervical cancer?”

Reduce the Risk of HPV Infection
Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, and oropharynx (back of the throat). This virus is commonly transmitted through sexual activities. Even skin-to-skin contact with the genital area can spread the infection. Here are some things you can do to lessen the risk of acquiring HPV:

  • Use a condom (for intercourse) or a dental dam (for oral sex).
  • Limit the number of your sexual partners.
  • If you are still in your teens, avoid having sexual contact as the risk of infection is higher for your age group.

Get an HPV Vaccine
Receiving this vaccine can protect the body against cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus This is considerably the most important step in cervical cancer prevention, as nearly everyone will get exposed to HPV at some point in their lives.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that boys and girls get vaccinated against HPV as early as 9 to 12 years old. This is a preventive measure long before they encounter their first sexual contact, which can expose them to the virus. While the previous age range for the vaccine was 9 to 26 years old, the limit was recently increased to 45, giving a chance to those who were not vaccinated early on.

Cervical cancer rarely shows any symptoms until it has already advanced. This is why it is important to have regular screenings to check for early signs and prevent them from progressing. Have either or both of these tests done regularly:

The Pap Test
The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix. In this procedure, a brush is inserted through the vagina to gently scrape cells from the cervix. The specimen is then examined in a laboratory for any abnormalities.

Doctors recommend having Pap testing every three years, starting at age 21. Depending on your conditions or other risk factors, your physician or a specialist may recommend that you get tested more frequently.

HPV Test
This test checks for infection by high-risk types of human papillomavirus. This can also be done along with a pap test/smear (called “co-testing”), as it uses the same cell collection procedure.

Regular testing can help prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous cells early. For HPV or cervical cancer screening, contact Sioux Center Health. Our screenings and diagnostic imaging tests can accurately detect or diagnose medical conditions.