Did you know that January is Cervical Health Awareness Month? Cervical Health Awareness month is about inspiring women to get screened for cervical cancer and to consider the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Cervical cancer is easily treated if caught early, and there are things you can do to protect yourself from the disease.
What are three questions women ask about cervical health?
Does HPV Lead to Cervical Cancer?
Perhaps you’ve heard of HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. While there are different types of HPV (including the kind that can cause genital warts), there are only certain types that can cause cervical cancer. Your doctor can screen you for HPV. If you do not have HPV, you may want to talk with your doctor about getting vaccinated against it, if you’re a candidate. The vaccination can protect you against getting HPV in the future and therefore may lower your risk of getting cervical cancer.
HPV is sexually transmitted and can infect the cervix. Your body fights the infection off, but the damage can cause the DNA of the cells in your cervix to change, therefore leading to cancer. They won’t always turn into cancerous ones, however. In fact, few HPV infections ever lead to cervical cancer, but if you’re aware you have them, you can treat them sooner.
What Can You Do for Cervical Health?
One of the things you can do for cervical health is to use protection when having intercourse. This will help reduce your chances of getting sexually transmitted infections, including HPV. Female condoms are thought to be more protective than male ones; however, female and male condoms are equally important!
It’s also vital to care for yourself—get enough sleep, eat healthy, and understand your body. While you may not experience any adverse health symptoms if you have HPV or pre-cancerous cervix cells, getting checkups is important. You’ll also want to quit smoking if you haven’t already; even second-hand smoke is dangerous for your health!
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help you maintain adequate cervical health. Exercise within your limits and talk with your doctor about great types of exercise you can do. Exercise boosts immunity and your metabolism, and can encourage your body to heal.
Can Getting Tested Help?
When visiting your gynecologist, he or she can do a Pap test, also known as a Pap smear. This test will be able to show if you have abnormal cells in your cervix. The procedure is simple and painless, although it may be uncomfortable. A Pap smear will not be able to tell you if you have HPV, but it will be able to show any abnormal cell growth in your cervix.
If you are found to have abnormal cells, you may not need treatment, as many women who have HPV and develop pre-cancerous cells will not get cervical cancer. However, they can turn into cervical cancer in certain women. You’ll need to talk with your doctor about what your risk is, what your treatment should be, and what you can do to remain healthy.
This month, keep your cervix healthy and get a Pap smear done every three years with your gynecologist. There are things you can do to ensure your cervix stays healthy, such as stopping smoking, using protection during sex, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Remember that screenings for cervical cancer can help you detect cancerous cells early, which will lead to a more successful treatment!