Cervical cancer affects thousands of women each year, and it usually develops from human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it causes nearly every type of cervical cancer. One of the easiest ways to prevent cervical cancer is through a cervical cancer screening, which helps find changes in the cervix that may be due to cancer. Find out what to expect during a cervical cancer screening and what you can do to prevent cancer with these tips!
The Ins & Outs of Cervical Cancer
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and it seeks to help everyone, especially women, learn how to take care of their bodies and reduce their likelihood of developing cancer. Cervical cancer is a deadly disease but one of the most preventable. In fact, more than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the United States, and most of these cases would have been completely avoidable if certain preventative steps had been taken. While cervical cancer is preventable, it’s quite difficult to recognize, grows very slowly and often exhibits few symptoms, especially in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, they often surface as vaginal bleeding between periods or after intercourse, pelvic pain and irregular vaginal discharge. Most forms of cervical cancer develop due to human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. HPV affects both men and women, with approximately 80 million being affected by the disease in the U.S. alone. Many of these individuals, specifically women, will develop cervical cancer from HPV, which puts their health and lives at risk. While cervical cancer can be scary, there are certain steps that you can take to keep your health in optimal shape and avoid any run-in with cancer.
Common Tests To Treat & Prevent Cervical Cancer
The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, which, fortunately, can be mostly prevented by a pap smear or an HPV test. A pap test, or pap smear, looks for changes in the mouth of the cervix by using a plastic speculum. This device opens up the vagina to better view the cervix and collect squamous and glandular cells for testing. Once completed, these cells are then evaluated in a laboratory for signs of cancer or abnormalities. It is recommended that women start receiving pap tests at age 21, and should have one every three years after age 30. A second test to prevent cervical cancer is called an HPV test, which identifies high-risk types of the HPV virus in your body that could be causing your cells to change. Typically done alongside a pap test, the HPV test is performed by using a soft brush to collect cervical cells, or the cells can be taken from the pap test and sent off for screening. Both a pap test and an HPV test are two of many effective screening options to identify cervical cancer early on and are highly recommended by most practicing physicians.
Tips For Keeping Your Cervix Healthy
While scheduling regular pap and HPV tests will be the best form of cancer prevention for you, there are other things to do that can protect your cervical health for years to come. One of the most common ways that women keep HPV from occurring is through an HPV vaccine, which is administered to females from 13-26 years old and males from 12-21 years of age. The two most common HPV vaccines are Cervarix and Gardasil, and both have been proven to protect against most cervical cancers and even anal cancer in men. Next, practice safe sex. HPV is typically contracted through sexual intercourse with an infected person, so using a condom each time you engage in sexual activity will help reduce the spread of this infection and protect your health at the same time. Additionally, if you ever have an abnormal pap smear, make sure that you follow up with your doctor to ensure that anything questionable or concerning is addressed. Never miss your scheduled pap test appointment, and let your doctor know of anything changes in your vagina. Lastly, quit smoking. Smoking has been proven to double your risk for developing cervical cancer by damaging the DNA of cervix cells. Not only that, but smoking puts you at-risk for other cancers, as well, like throat, lung, tongue and mouth cancer. By following these tips and being screened regularly, you can drastically reduce your likelihood of experiencing cervical cancer and give you the peace of mind that your health is where it should be.
Protect Yourself With A Health Screening!
At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we care about your cervical health and well-being, and we want you to enjoy life without the worry of cancer or sexually transmitted infections. Our team specializes in preventing disease in the body through functional medicine and natural remedies that seek to cleanse your system of harmful chemicals and pollutants that are affecting your well-being. Call our office today at (970) 631-8286 to schedule a consultation and get your health back on track!