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How can I lower my risk for cervical cancer?

These things may help lower your risk for cervical cancer:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Use condoms during sex. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Nearly 100 percent of cervical cancer is caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), mainly types HPV16 and HPV 18. Often no warning signs appear at all. Therefore regular Pap tests are critical to detecting any abnormal cells on the cervix. An HPV test can also detect infection by the virus. Additionally, 2 vaccines for high-risk HPV are available to protect women and girls.

Symptoms of HPV:

  • Genital lesions or warts
  • Oral or respiratory lesions
  • Common, plantar or flat warts

​The cervix—the neck of the uterus that opens downward to the vagina—plays an important role in pregnancy: It lengthens to hold the fetus in the uterus and then shortens and dilates to allow labor and delivery. Cervical cancer, which develops from abnormal cells on the cervix, is perhaps the most detectable cancer.

Although cervical cancer has several causes, one stems from sexually transmitted diseases—the most significant being human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts and starts on the surface of the cervix.

Because HPV rarely has any outward symptoms (though some women may experience mild irritation, burning, and itching), it's one of the stealth diseases that can attack a woman's sexual organs.

You can detect HPV and cervical cancer early with a Pap smear. Women need regular Pap smears and pelvic exams to detect the signs of HPV or the first signs of cervical cancer. I recommend them once a year for most women and every six months for women who have had a history of HPV or abnormal Pap smears.

While there are no sure ways to prevent cervical cancer, you can lower your risk by:

  • Getting the HPV vaccine. Infection with the human papilloma virus is a risk factor for cervical cancer. Any female between the ages of 9 and 26 can get the vaccine to prevent it.
  • Also, get regular Pap tests. The best time to get a Pap test is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your last period. Don't have the test done during your period. Also, for 2 days before your Pap test don't have sex or use douches, vaginal medicines (unless your doctor tells you to) or spermicides.
  • Not smoking. Smoking can raise your risk of cervical cancer.
  • Being faithful. This means you and your partner only have sex with each other and no one else.
  • Using a condom EVERY time you have  vaginal, anal or oral sex. Condoms don't always protect you from HPV. But they may reduce your risk of getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

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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.