Having a healthy cervix requires taking steps to reduce the risk of developing cervical health problems such as cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. Here’s some ways you can help ensure optimum cervical health:
Cervical cancer deaths have decreased over 50% in the last 30-40 years through increased availability of Pap and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing, which have led to early detection and treatment. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or other types of dysplasia can be detected years before cervical cancer.
Screening tests for cervical cancer include:
Pap test — A brush or stick is used to collect samples of cells in and around the cervix. The samples are examined under a microscope to look for abnormal growth or cancer.
HPV test — The same sample of cells taken for a Pap test can be used to detect HPV infection.
Pelvic exam —A thorough, manual evaluation of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. A Pap test, as well as other samples to detect sexually transmitted diseases can be done during a pelvic exam.
Cervical cancer screening guidelines recommend:
- A Pap test every 3 years for women aged 21-29 years
- A Pap AND HPV test every 5 years for women aged 30-65 years
- Women aged 65 years and older can stop having Pap and HPV tests if they have had regular results for a consecutive period of time.
Pap tests may be recommended more often if you have abnormal results or certain conditions.
There are two vaccines to prevent infection by some HPV types that cause cervical cancer. Vaccination also protects against dysplasia on the genitals and genital warts.
The vaccine is routinely given to girls between the ages of 11-12 years, and should be given before a woman’s first sexual contact. The vaccine can be given to women through age 26.
HPV is transmitted through intimate and sexual contact, making it a main risk factor for cervical cancer. Women who began having sex before the age of 16 or who have had multiple sexual partners are at greater risk of HPV. To reduce your risk, have a monogamous relationship with your partner and practice safe sex by using a latex condom.
Regular exposure to carcinogenic agents increases the risk of irritation that causes changes in cells. Quitting is an important step in preventing cervical and other cancers. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. Click here to learn about Griffin’s free smoking cessation program.
Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has been associated with lower risks of cervical and other cancers. Good nutrition supports your body's immune system and can help maintain a healthy weight. Click here to learn about Griffin’s weight loss management programs.
Some of the information in this article can be attributed to EBSCO Information Services.