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How can I prevent cervical cancer?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The best thing you can do to avoid cervical cancer is to get your regular pap screenings. Pap smears detect irregular cells in the cervical lining before they become cancerous. The FDA has also approved an HPV screening test that may be used with or in place of the Pap test. If you are a younger woman or have a teenaged daughter who is not yet sexually active, look into the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It will prevent HPV infections that can lead to cervical cancer. Be smart sexually. Avoid sexual contact with some who has HPV and know a partner's sexual history to protect yourself from exposure to HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Detecting precancerous changes in their earliest stages through regular Pap tests is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Most women who develop invasive cervical cancer have not had regular Pap tests. Reducing or eliminating risk factors associated with the development of cervical cancer can also help prevent it:
  • Don't smoke cigarettes.
  • Use condoms correctly and consistently to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Note, however, that while condom use will decrease the risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, it can't prevent it entirely because HPV can infect cells anywhere on the skin in the genital area.
Additionally, the FDA has approved two HPV vaccines, called Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardasil protects women against four HPV types. HPV screening of women ages 30 and over is also an important part of preventing potential complications of cervical cancer. The easiest way to screen for HPV is with the HPV test, which checks for the virus itself. The Pap test can identify cervical cancer in its earliest stage but can also find abnormal precancerous cells and signs of an active HPV infection.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.