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Early Detection is the Key to Preventing Cervical Cancer

contributed by Becky Eggleston, R.N., O.C.N., Cancer AnswerLine nurse

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One of the most common cancers in women, cervical cancer begins in the tissues of the cervix – an area that connects the vagina to the uterus in women. The good news is that cervical cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer that can be easily detected in its pre-cancerous stages with regular PAP tests and other screening tests.

Women with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop cervical cancer. Research has shown that cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – however not all women with HPV get cervical cancer.

We also know that women that smoke and have HPV are nearly twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Other risk factors include a family history of cervical cancer (mother or sister), a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and being overweight.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  • Beginning at age 21, see your doctor and get regular PAP tests every 3 years.
  • After age 30, get the PAP test and HPV test done every 5 years as recommended.
  • Get the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active (typically between age 9-25).
  • If you smoke – talk to your doctor about how to quit.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
  • Know the signs and symptoms, and tell your doctor if you have:
    • Bleeding between periods
    • Bleeding after menopause, or after sexual intercourse
    • Pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse, or unusual vaginal discharge

Continue learning about cervical cancer:

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