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Your risk of developing cervical cancer can be lowered by getting regularly screened, from age 21 onward.
The 2 tests that are available to help detect and prevent cervical cancer are: the Pap smear test and the HPV (human papillomavirus) test. The Pap smear detects precancerous cells which can turn into cancer cells if not treated. The HPV test searches for the virus that can cause cervical cell changes. It is recommended to get these tests every 3 years, starting at age 21.
There is currently an HPV vaccine available. This vaccine can prevent you from getting a virus that can cause cancerous cells to form on your cervix. This vaccine is recommended at the onset of puberty, but you are also able to get this vaccine until you are 26 years of age. After age 26, it is not recommended to get this vaccine because vaccination at this point provides less benefits.
Some other ways to reduce your risk for developing cervical cancer include not smoking, using condoms during sex, and limiting your number of sexual partners.
Early cervical cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms, which is why regular screening (Pap smear) is important. Advanced cervical cancer symptoms can include irregular bleeding and/or discharge, and bleeding after sex.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include having HIV or another type of immunodeficiency, smoking, having given birth to more than three children, having multiple sexual partners, and using birth control pills for more than 5 years. It is important to have regular examinations, particularly if you are high risk.
Cervical cancer is treated by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread. To find out which treatment plan is right for you, have a conversation with your gynecologist. Your doctor can then explain the risks and benefits of each type of treatment, as well as the potential side effects. If you have any concerns, always get a second opinion.
If you have any general questions or concerns on cervical cancer, or you would like a referral to a gynecologist, call your Premier Health Associates healthcare provider for an appointment. We are open 7 days a week.