Cervical cancer can be described as a tumor (malignant) of the cervix. Nearly nine thousand women in the US develop cervical cancer every year. It is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Prevention techniques like Pap smear and cervical screenings, are responsible for the drop in the number of cases of Cervical cancer in the past twenty years. Usually cervical cancer starts with the pre-cancerous changes and there are ways to inhibit the disease from developing:
- Treating pre-cancer symptoms.
- Preventing pre cancers.
Preventing pre cancers can be done with these 5 easy steps:
Practice safe sex
Cervical cancer is linked to an infection with types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) which can be spread by practicing unprotected sex. Condoms should be used while having sexual intercourse with a new or unknown partner as it helps in reducing the risk of contracting the virus by a huge percentage.
However this virus can be spread through sexual contact like usage of sex toys or contact between the exposed skins of genital areas.
The risk of being infected by HPV increases if one engages in sex with multiple partners. Though in certain cases women with only one sexual partner may also develop the infection.
Get a regular pap smear
This works as one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer as it can detect changes early on before the infection has a chance to turn into cancer.
Identifying abnormal changes in the cervix can be done at an early stage with regular cervical screenings. Women belonging to the age group of 25-49 are recommended a screening once in every 3 years and those in the age group of 50-64 are recommended a screening once in every 5 years. Women above 65 are recommended a screening only if they haven’t done it on turning 50 or if they’ve had recent abnormalities in their tests.
Those who have been vaccinated for HPV also have to attend the screening tests because even the vaccination doesn’t guarantee protecting the individual from cervical cancer.
Also cervical screenings aren’t 100% accurate but can identify most abnormal activity in the cervix. But it is best to report symptoms like vaginal bleeding to the doctor even if the individual has been recently tested.
Cervical cancer vaccination
The vaccination/ childhood immunization program can be administered to girls aged 12 and above and it includes 3 doses administered over a period of 6 months.
The HPV vaccine protects against 4 types of HPV including the 2 strains that are known to be the cause of genital warts and of 70% of cervical cancers.
But it must be noted that though the vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer, it doesn’t guarantee 100% protection.
The chances of being infected by cervical cancer increases with smoking. Individuals who smoke are less capable of getting rid of the HPV infection from their bodies which later develops into cancer. If quitting smoking is a difficult task, there are several medications available (with prescription) and a therapy to help smokers kick the habit forever.