Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer death among American women. Advancements in preventive care have significantly lowered these numbers, but getting screened is still an essential part of every woman’s routine health care.
Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if it’s identified early. There are several ways to lower your risk, and as a leading gynecologist in Denton, Texas, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team at Women’s Health Specialists can help.
Take a moment to learn more about some of the best ways to protect your health and prevent cervical cancer.
How to lower your risk of cervical cancer
Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus, and it connects to your vagina. Cervical cancer starts with abnormal cell growth, and there are a few ways you can lower your risk.
Get vaccinated against HPV
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the country. Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer if left untreated.
The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HPV vaccination for girls and boys aged 11-12, but some people can get the vaccine as early as age 9 and up to age 26.
Get regular Pap smears
Pap smears are screening tests to detect abnormal cells in your cervix before cancer develops. Getting regular Pap smears is one of the best ways to prevent invasive cancer, because detecting changes as early as possible helps make treatment more effective.
We recommend getting your first Pap smear around age 21 and getting tested at least once every three years until around age 65. Women over the age of 30 can also opt for a combination of HPV and Pap tests every five years.
Practice safe sex
HPV spreads through sexual contact, so practicing safe sex reduces your risk of infection. Consider using barrier methods of contraception, like condoms, and limiting the number of sexual partners you have so you lower your risk of HPV and cervical cancer.
If you think you might have an STD, it’s important to get STD testing and inform your sexual partners of your results.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can lower your risk of cervical cancer, even if you have HPV. Certain nutrients, like flavonoids and folate, may lower your cancer risk. So consider eating a diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods to lower your risk of cervical cancer.
Along with getting the nutrients your body needs, eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of cervical cancer, so striving for a healthy weight may lower your risk, too.
Smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of a number of cancers, including cervical cancer. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, ask our team about help with smoking cessation.
Cervical cancer isn’t 100% preventable
While these are some of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer, they’re not foolproof. Practicing these preventive measures can lower your risk, but any woman can get cervical cancer even if they do everything they can to avoid it.
Not all cases of cervical cancer come from HPV. Other factors, like genetics, a weakened immune system, smoking, or other types of cancer may also increase your risk of cervical cancer.
That's why it's so important to get regular Pap tests and talk to your gynecologist if you notice any unusual symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain.
Is it time to schedule your next Pap smear? Have more questions about how to lower your risk of cervical cancer? Call Women’s Health Specialists at 940-202-0301 or send us a message online to get started.