Cervical Cancer Prevention
Deaths from cervical cancer are very preventable. Widespread
implementation of routine Pap smears has significantly reduced cervical cancer
mortality. According to the American
Cancer Society (ACS), mortality declined by almost 70 percent between 1955
Screening isn’t the only way to reduce your risk of cervical
cancer. Other prevention techniques focus on improving your health and reducing
exposure to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Infection with
HPV is responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Routine Pap smears help prevent cervical cancer deaths.
Early stage cervical cancer has no symptoms. Therefore, these tests are needed
to detect precancerous abnormalities and early-stage cervical cancer.
The survival rate for precancerous lesions is effectively
100 percent. Once lesions become cancerous, however, they are more difficult to
treat. That is why it is important to get routine Pap smears. These tests can
detect changes before they become problematic. Talk to your doctor about how
often you need to be screened.
Most women get Pap smears during a routine pelvic exam. The
US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screenings every three to five
years in women ages 21 to 65. The simple test uses a small tool to scrape cells
from the cervix. It usually causes only mild discomfort.
If you have an abnormal Pap smear, you have options. Early
treatment of precancerous lesions can prevent cancer from developing into
cancer. Some lesions don’t even require
treatment. Your doctor may just monitor them to see if they improve or get
worse. Discuss your follow-up alternatives with your doctor.
Health insurance companies are required to cover Pap smears.
If you have health insurance or are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, you can
receive free or low-cost Pap tests. If you do not have such coverage, sign up
on the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
(CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program also offers
free or low-cost access to Pap tests. To learn more about the program, call
1-800-CDC-INFO or visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp.
The majority of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Just two
types of HPV—HPV 16 and 18—cause more than 70 percent of cervical cancers.
There are currently two vaccines that can protect against HPV infection.
against both HPV 16 and 18. It also protects against the two low cancer risk
HPV types that cause most cases of genital warts.
protects against the two high-risk HPV types.
Who Needs Vaccination?
recommends that boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 26 should be
vaccinated against HPV. Ideally, this vaccination should be at age 11 or 12.
Vaccination is most effective if it is performed before a person starts having
sex. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility that have already been exposed to
Both HPV vaccines have been approved for girls. Only
Gardasil has been approved for boys.
The HPV vaccine is considered to be extremely safe. However,
it is not a substitute for Pap smears. There are over 100 types of HPV that can
infect humans. Therefore, cervical screening is still important, even for
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of
Other Prevention Techniques
In addition to screening and vaccination, people have other
options to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.
Reduce Sexual Risk Factors
sexual risk factors reduces your risk of HPV. This, in turn, makes it less
likely you will get cervical cancer. Methods to reduce your risk of HPV
- always use condoms for vaginal and
- use barriers for oral sex
- have fewer sexual partners
the age of 25 have a higher risk for genital HPV.
Live a Healthy Life
risk factor for cervical cancer is having a compromised immune system. Things
that can impair the immune system include:
- HIV infection
- transplant rejection medication
- frequent use of prednisone or other
also more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Therefore, it is a good idea to quit.