There are several different ways to prevent cervical cancer. But if you do develop this disease, steps can be taken to eradicate the cancer if it is caught early.
Cervical cancer is very preventable, especially if you take certain precautions and detect pre-cancerous cells early. There are still, however, over 9,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the U.S. While the risk of having cancer cannot be totally eliminated, there are several ways to prevent cervical cancer.
Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer from Developing
The following are several of the most effective ways to prevent cervical cancer from ever developing:
- Avoid exposure to HPV. The single most common cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV). Approximately 30 types of this virus can infect a woman’s cervix and half of them have been linked to cervical cancer. HPV infections are spread through sexual contact, so if you are sexually active, practice caution to avoid exposure and consider getting vaccinated.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Some studies have shown that women who have several sexual partners may have an increased risk for getting cervical cancer. If you are sexually active, make sure to use a condom as contracting HIV or other types of STDs can increase your chances of developing cervical cancer.
- Quit smoking. There has also been a link between smoking and cervical cancers (among many other types of cancer). If you are a smoker, quitting is an important step in decreasing your risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Get tested. The single best way to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screenings after reaching the age of 21. Pap tests, or Pap smears, can detect abnormal cell development before it develops into actual cancer, allowing you to be treated successfully if pre-cancerous cells are detected early.
How Cervical Cancer Begins
There are two types of cells lining the cervix: squamous cells and glandular cells. The place where these cells come together is called the transformation zone and this where most cervical cancers begin. These cells do not randomly become cancerous, but rather gradually become pre-cancerous cells that may turn into cancer.
If you have been getting regular Pap tests during your gynecologist visits, your chance of getting cervical cancer is very small. But if you have not had a Pap test in years and develop symptoms of abnormal bleeding, pain, or discharge, then you need to visit your gynecologist for an exam as soon as possible.
How to Treat Pre-Cancer After It Develops
An abnormal Pap test does not automatically mean that cancer has developed. It means other tests will need to be taken. This may include using a colposcopy to more extensively examine the cervix or conducting some type of biopsy. After a biopsy has been performed, the tissue will be tested to determine if the cells are cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Even though these are abnormal cells, they are not cancerous.
The most common procedure used today to treat abnormal cells is known as a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). Through a LEEP, your gynecologist will actually remove the tissue area where your cells are abnormal. Because this procedure is done in the setting of the doctor’s office, it is considered an outpatient treatment.
The Importance of Getting Tested
Whether you are a woman that is starting a family or going through menopause, it is vitally important to have a regular Pap test. The Woman’s Clinic in Little Rock offers annual health exams as well as all forms of gynecological care throughout your lifetime. Contact The Woman’s Clinic to schedule an appointment today and learn more about preventing cervical cancer.