Tips to Prevent Cervical Cancer.
Keeping your cervix healthy is an important component of good reproductive health. Cervical health issues include inflammation, growth, and cancer, but fortunately, many of these conditions can be prevented and/or treated.
What is the cervix? 1
The cervix is part of the female reproductive system. The other organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina (Figure).
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus and vagina.
What are the functions of the cervix? 1,2
- The cervix plays an important role in allowing fluids to pass between the uterus (the womb) and vagina, such as:
- Menstrual blood (has to pass from the uterus and through your cervix)
- Cervical mucus (its consistency changes during the menstrual cycle to prevent or promote pregnancy)
- Sperm (has to travel through the cervix to reach the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg)
- It enables a baby to leave the uterus through the vagina during childbirth.
- It helps to keep bacteria and viruses from getting into the uterus.
What are the common conditions and disorders that affect the cervix?1
The most concerning cervical conditions involve the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Conditions that affect the cervix include:
- Cervical cancer: It most often results from HPV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Cervical dysplasia: A condition that involves abnormal cell growth, most often resulting from an HPV infection.
- Cervicitis: Inflammation of your cervix caused by an STI or skin irritation.
- Cervical polyps, fibroids, and cysts: Harmless fleshy or fluid-filled growths on the cervix.
- Cervical insufficiency: A pregnancy complication that occurs when your cervix opens too early (miscarriage or premature birth)
By taking steps to reduce personal risk factors, and working to maintain a strong immune system, one can keep their cervix healthy.
- Know the basics about HPV3
A very frequent sexually transmitted infection is the human papillomavirus (HPV) spread by skin-to-skin sexual contact. Nearly everyone who has ever engaged in sexual activity will get HPV at some point in their lives, and it is mostly harmless. One may not even be aware they have the infection because, for the most part, it has no symptoms and fades away on its own.
However, a small percentage of HPV strains referred to as “high-risk HPV” can eventually lead to cancer in certain people. Cervical cancer is the most prevalent kind of cancer that HPV causes, although it is also connected to malignancies of the other reproductive organs.
- Get screened4
The main tools in the fight against cervical cancer are vaccination and screening.
Two screening tests can help find changes that could become pre-cancer or cervical cancer
- The Pap test, often known as a pap smear, scans the cervix for cell abnormalities that, if left untreated, might develop into cervical cancer.
- The HPV test searches for the virus that can result in these cellular alterations.
General guidelines recommend that: 1
- A pap smear at age 21 and a follow-up every three years until they are in their thirties.
- A Pap and an HPV test every five years between ages 30 to 65.
- Get tested for STI1
STI testing may not be performed at your yearly gynecological visit unless you expressly request it. Ask to get tested if you are a sexually active person. If the test results in a positive result for anything, discuss treatment options with the doctor.
- Get vaccinated1
The FDA has approved three vaccines that prevent the types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer. Getting the vaccine greatly reduces the risk of cervical cancer.
- Practice safer sex1
- Usage of condoms or dental dams during intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex should be incorporated.
- Avoid sharing sex toys, and limit the number of sexual partners.
By taking these precautions, one can lower their chance of contracting STI like HPV, which increases their risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Quit tobacco products5
According to research, smoking or using tobacco products increases one’s risk of developing cancer from HPV.
- Make healthy diet and lifestyle choices5
It is accurate to say that HPV is a major factor in cervical cancer. There are, however, additional risk variables at play. You may get rid of such elements by adopting a balanced diet that is rich in color and nutrients, exercising frequently, and making other good lifestyle decisions.
- Cervix, available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23279-cervix , last accessed on 5th January 2023.
- The cervix, available at: https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-types/cervical/what-is-cervical-cancer/the-cervix, last accessed on 5th January 2023.
- HPV, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11901-hpv-human-papilloma-virus, Last accessed on 5th January 2023
- What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Cervical Cancer?, Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/prevention.htm, last accessed on 5th January 2023.
- 6 Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Cancer Care, Available at: https://www.cancer.net/blog/2018-09/6-lifestyle-changes-improve-your-cancer-care, Last accessed on 5th January 2023.