January 24, 2020 — According to the American Cancer Society,
more than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, even though it is the most preventable type of female cancer. Below are things you should know to help take control of your cervical health, and prevent cervical cancer.
Know the risk factors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which is a common sexually transmitted virus.
HPV may go away on its own, cause genital or skin warts, or cause changes on a woman’s cervix that may lead to cervical cancer.
Other factors that can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer, include:
- Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Giving birth to three or more children
Reduce your risk
The CDC recommends two screening tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
Pap testThe Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancerous cells on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated properly. Women should get Pap tests starting at age 21, and should continue getting
them until they are 65 years old. It’s recommended that women with normal Pap test results receive a test every three years. With regular testing, it’s easier to catch abnormal or precancerous cells in their early stages when they’re
simpler to treat.
HPV testThe HPV test looks for the virus that can cause cell changes.
In most cases, there are no symptoms of cervical cancer. Regular cervical cancer screenings are important for early diagnosis. Talk to your primary care physician about scheduling your next well-woman exam today, and download our free preventive care checklist for women 18 years and older.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It’s recommended for children ages 9 through 26, and is covered
under your preventive care benefits as a Sharp Health Plan member.