Cervical cancer has gained popularity over the years as a silent but deadly disease. It was even documented as the number one cause of cancer death among American women during the onset of its recognition.
Fortunately, through continuous medical research and testing, the mortality rate significantly declined. Still, we acknowledge the importance of cervical cancer information dissemination especially as it is still a common disease in women.
What better way to celebrate Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this January than by looking into preventive measures against cervical cancer, ha?
Here are four proven ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. Let’s jump right in!
1. Get a Pap Test or HPV Test
CDC has recognized the role of Pap tests (Papanicolaou test) in the drop of cervical cancer death rates. Along with the HPV test, more women who have been diagnosed with the disease are able to survive.
A Pap Test or Pap Smear is a popular screening process for cervical cancer. Precancerous or cancerous cells are detected by examining the scraped sample from the cervical opening.
On the other hand, an HPV test follows the same procedure as the Pap Test. But it primarily looks for HPV or the human papillomavirus that causes a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Untreated HPV often leads to cervical cancer. In fact, it is the most widespread cause of cervical cancer.
Women who are 21 or above are recommended to have a Pap test every after three years. For those over 30, the Pap test should include an HPV test to prevent the development of precancerous cells in the cervix.
2. Secure an HPV Vaccine as Protection Against Cervical Cancer
With HPV heavily influencing the occurrence of cervical cancer, it makes sense to protect yourself from this virus.
Now, it is important to understand that cervical cancer is linked to genital HPV which is contracted through sexual intercourse.
HPV vaccines were made available in the US in 2007. Since then, getting vaccinated for HPV has been treated as a way to protect women against cervical cancer and men from the common STD.
Women who are aware of the seriousness of cervical cancer and the fact that its symptoms only manifest in the later stage have lined up in their doctor’s office to get vaccinated. You can also get the HPV vaccines from community health clinics and the state health department.
3. Always Practice Safe Sex
Having known that cervical cancer is strongly associated with HPV, it is highly recommended that women and men alike practice safe sex to avoid viral transmission through the following:
1. Avoiding Multiple Sex Partners
HPV can go undiagnosed for a long time and the virus can remain in the system. Having multiple sex partners can increase the likelihood that you can contract HPV unknowingly.
2. Refraining From Having Sex at an Early Age
Studies have revealed that having sexual intercourse at an early age increases the risk of developing an HPV infection. Factors such as biological predisposition, especially among young women with an immature cervix, and inclination to sexual exploration contribute to this finding.
3. Using a Condom
HPV, first and foremost, is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. So, it doesn’t matter if the man ejaculated or not. Using a condom creates a barrier that prevents the transmission of HPV.
3. Avoid Smoking
What has smoking got to do with cervical cancer?
A lot, apparently.
Aside from it affects the function of the immune system causing poor health to the body’s cells, tobacco substances cause damage to the DNA of the cervical cells which impacts the development of cancer.
Researchers actually found traces of tobacco by-products in the mucus of patients with cervical cancer who regularly smoke. Further studies have confirmed that smoking habits are a significant cofactor in the growth of cancerous cervical cells.
If you are a smoker, the risk of having cervical cancer is twice as high compared to a non-smoker. So, it’s time to start trying to quit so you can protect yourself from cervical cancer.
Are There Early Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Most women do not experience signs and symptoms during the early stage of cancer. This is why testing plays an important role not only in diagnosing the disease but successfully treating it as well.
Symptoms typically show at a later stage. These include the following:
1. Light bleeding in between periods
2. Heavy and lengthy menstrual bleeding
3. Painful sexual intercourse
4. Persistent pelvic or back pain
5. Post-menopausal bleeding
6. Blood spots after sexual intercourse or pelvic exam
In a Nutshell
Cervical cancer is an invasive disease that requires routine medical procedures such as Pap tests and HPV tests to be diagnosed early. With HPV as its most common culprit, it is vital to practice safe sexual practices and behavior along with eliminating harmful habits like smoking.
The absence of its early signs and symptoms does not mean you can’t protect yourself from cervical cancer. It clearly suggests that you take your health into your hands by getting tested regularly not only for cancers but for other threatening health conditions as well.