How To Prevent Cervical Cancer
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|Regular Pap Smear Tests
The most important thing any woman can do to prevent cervical cancer is to have a regular screening test. A Pap test looks for precancerous changes in the cells in the cervix which may later develop into cancer. The sooner changes are discovered, the sooner they can be monitored and treated if necessary (see cervical cancer treatment) and so the better the prognosis for the woman. Pap tests are recommended every 2 years from the onset of sexual activity or the age of 21, whichever comes first. If you are aged over 30 and your previous consecutive screenings have been normal, your doctor may recommend a Pap test every 3 years thereafter. You should still however arrange frequent regular check-ups with your doctor for a pelvic examination and clinical breast examination (as part of breast cancer prevention). Even if you not having sex regularly or consider yourself too old to have children, a Pap test is still recommended.
One of the main causes of cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and screening for its presence may be recommended in certain circumstances. If you are aged 30 or over your doctor may offer a HPV test along with your Pap smear test. Women younger than this are not usually offered the test because HPV infections are common in this age group and they usually clear of their own accord. As there is no cure for the virus all a diagnosis would likely do is cause unnecessary distress. However in women aged over 30, HPV infections are less common and if they do occur they are more likely to be persistent. If the Pap test returns normal but HPV positive this means the woman will have a low chance (4 percent) of developing abnormal cervix cells which will need to be treated within the next 6 to 12 months. These women will monitored with a follow up Pap and HPV test 6 months later. The good news is that 60 percent of those with a normal Pap test result will have become HPV negative within the time period.
What Are The Signs? See Cervical cancer symptoms.
Under 30 With Abnormal Pap Test Results
If you are aged under 30 and your Pap test results came back abnormal, your doctor will want you to have the HPV test. The Pap test probably noted abnormal cell changes (termed ASC-US). ASC-US cell changes may not be precancerous, but they are not normal either. If ASC-US are found the doctor will want to know if the HPV virus is causing those cell changes. Women who then test positive for HPV will need further testing and treatment may be recommended.
Immunization does not prevent all types of HPV infections which cause cervical cancer. The vaccination will reduce a girl's chance of developing the disease by about 30 percent. This is why women who have been vaccinated will still require cervical screening. It must also be noted that neither vaccine prevent other STDs, so normal sexual health precautions will still need to be taken. On the other hand there is evidence that the vaccines may also offer vaginal cancer prevention and vulva cancer prevention.
The HPV virus is passed by skin to skin contact during sexual activity. No penetrative sex has to occur. The fewer the partners, the less the risk.
Insist Your Partner Wears A Condom
The use of barrier methods such as condoms and spermicidal gels can decrease the risk of HPV infections. While scientists do not know why this should be the case, condom use in particular is associated with lower rates of cervical cancers.
Delay Having Sex
Research shows that if a girl has sex under the age of 21 her risk of contracting HPV increases 40-fold.
Women who smoke or inhale toxic levels of second hand smoke appear to be at increased risk for both cervical cancer and it's precancerous stage cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Studies have found evidence of the toxic chemicals from cigarettes in cervical cells and fluid. Younger women are more vulnerable because puberty causes the cervix cells to undergo major changes making them vulnerable to environmental toxins.
New research indicates certain vitamins and minerals may reduce the overall risk of cervical cancer, in particular taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Cancer clinical trials are now investigating the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables to prevent the disease (see Cancer diet foods), as well as trialing the benefits of exercise, quitting smoking and taking certain medications and supplements.
See also, our article on preventing cancer.
|Related Articles on Cervix Cancers
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