While some cases of cervical cancer cannot be prevented, there are many things a woman can do to reduce her risk of developing cervical cancer.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Cervical Cancer
- Get a regular Pap smear. The Pap smear can be the greatest defenses for cervical cancer. The Pap smear can detect cervical changes early before they turn into cancer. Check cervical cancer screening guidelines to find out how often you should have a Pap smear, or check with your doctor.
- Limit the amount of sexual partners you have. Studies have shown women who have many sexual partners increase their risk for cervical cancer. They also are increasing their risk of developing HPV, a known cause for cervical cancer.
- Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer. Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia. Your best bet is to kick the habit.
- If you are sexually active, use a condom. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for HIV and other STD's which can increase your risk factor for developing cervical cancer.
- Follow up on abnormal Pap smears. If you have had an abnormal Pap smear, it is important to follow up with regular Pap smears or colposcopies, whatever your doctor has decided for you. If you have been treated for cervical dysplasia, you still need to follow up with Pap smears or colposcopies. Dysplasia can return and when undetected, can turn into cervical cancer.
- Get the HPV vaccine. If you are under 27, you may be eligible to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents high risk strains of HPV in women. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved by the FDA to give to young girls as young as 9. The vaccine is most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active.