Your Cervical Health: Why It’s Important and How to Protect It
Cervical health and cervical cancer prevention are not only essential, but they are also easier to practice than you may think. By learning the basics today and following through on treatment, you can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.
The Basics of Cervical Health
The cervix is found at the lower part of the uterus and above the vagina. Cervical cancer is most commonly caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV), types 16 and 18. Cervical cancer can be prevented, and your risk can be reduced with cervical cancer screenings and the HPV vaccine.
What are Cervical Cancer Screenings?
Cervical cancer screenings involve looking at cells of the cervix to see if they show cancerous or precancerous changes, which allows for early treatment. A gynecological exam is recommended annually, which includes a pelvic exam. Your doctor will look at the cervix as well as perform a cervical cancer screening test if needed.
Types of Tests Used in Screenings
Depending on your age, prior results, and current guidelines, your doctor may perform a Pap smear and/or an HPV test to assess your cervical health.
When to Schedule Your Screening
- For women ages 21-29, a Pap smear should be performed every three years.
- For women ages 30-65, a Pap smear should be performed every three years, or a Pap and HPV test every five years.
- For women ages 65 and older, cervical cancer screening can be stopped if they meet the following criteria:
- Regular cervical cancer screening test until age 65.
- Three normal Pap smear tests in a row or two normal Pap smears with HPV tests (the most recent being within five years).
You may also have a cervical cancer screening test if you have an abnormal cervical exam or you are having abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Women with a History of a Hysterectomy
If you have had your uterus removed (hysterectomy) for noncancerous reasons, your cervix was also removed, and you do not have a history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer, you can stop cervical cancer screenings.
If you are not sure whether you should have cervical cancer screenings or not, ask your health care professional.
The HPV Vaccine Reduces Your Risk of Cancer
HPV is transmitted through sex or close genital to genital contact. HPV infection in the genitals does not always but can cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can help prevent the infection and reduce the risk of cervical cancer, especially if you get it before you become sexually active. The vaccine is recommended at age 11-12 but can be given from age 9-26. It has also been shown to be of benefit and has been approved for women up to age 45.
Contact Us Today to Protect Your Cervical Health
Family Health Centers understands the importance of monitoring your cervical health. We offer a wide range of women’s health services that are available to everyone in the community regardless of insurance status or the ability to pay.
About the Author
Victoria Delgado, DO OB/GYN is an Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist with over 18 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York Institute of Technology Medical School in 2004.