Cervical cancer is a type of cancer seen in women that occurs in the cells of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that doctors will make 13,170 new diagnoses of cervical cancer by the end of 2019 in the United States and more than 4,200 women in the U.S. will die from cervical cancer this year (Medical News Today). There are some things that a woman can do to lower the risk of this type of cancer.
- Regular screenings and follow-up care: A proven way to prevent cervical cancer is to get screened to find pre-cancers or abnormal (changed) cells before they can turn into invasive cancer. There are mainly two types of tests available to detect this type of cancer: the Pap test (or Pap smear) and the HPV test. If a pre-cancer is found, it can be treated before it becomes cancer. Deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented by regular screenings and follow-up care.
- Lifestyle changes: The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading risk factor for cervical cancer. With a proper lifestyle and vaccination you might be able to prevent this sexually transmitted infection.
- You’re less likely to get HPV if you have fewer sex partners, because nearly all cases of cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which spreads through sexual activity.
- If you’re too old for the vaccine, the best method of prevention is to keep your doctor appointments.
- Quit smoking, as it depletes your overall immune function, which can help you fight viruses such as HPV as well as cancer.
- Studies show maintaining a healthy weight with diet rich in fruits and vegetables and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
- Birth control method: Long-term use of birth control pills can increase a woman’s risk of breast and cervical cancer. Getting regular HPV screening and using another method of birth control such as an intrauterine device (IUD) can lower your risk.
- Get a HPV vaccine: There are a number of different strains of the HPV virus, and vaccination targets those that pose the greatest risk of cervical cancer. These vaccines only work to prevent HPV infection, not to treat an infection that already exists. That is why the ACS recommends getting HPV vaccines to a person before they get exposed to HPV (such as through sexual activity). Some HPV vaccines are also approved to help prevent other types of cancers and anal and genital warts.