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Cervical cancer: Everything to know about screening and prevention

Cervical cancer: Everything to know about screening and prevention

Sending love and wellness to our community is top of mind here at Touro. That’s why we encourage the people of New Orleans to stay ahead of potential health risks by getting screened regularly. Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about cervical cancer screening and prevention.

A type of gynecologic cancer, cervical cancer develops slowly and begins in your cervical cells and spreads to surrounding areas. These abnormal cells look nearly identical to your regular cells and can be difficult to detect, which is why it is so important to get screened often.

How and when to get screened

There are several different methods a doctor might use to detect cervical cancer. The most common type of test is a Pap test, during which you will lie down for a pelvic exam. Your doctor will use a small swab or brush to collect cells from your cervix, the organ between your vagina and uterus. Keep in mind that while this experience may be uncomfortable, you’ve got virtually no health or safety risks going into a Pap test.

Another common type of testing for cervical cancer is visual inspection with acetic acid. This type of inspection is used to catch cervical cancer early if your doctor already suspects you of having it. It is an inexpensive but effective method that helps save women’s lives every single day!

If you’re in your twenties, it’s probably time to get a Pap test if you haven’t had one already. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends getting your first Pap test at 21 and then following up every three years. If you’re between the ages of 30 and 65, you should also aim to get tested every three years.

MORE: Take our Cervical Cancer Risk Assessment

Risk factors decoded

Since we’ve emphasized the importance of getting a cervical cancer screening test, you’re probably wondering about risk factors. Most cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, a group of viruses that can manifest as skin growths. You have an increased likelihood of developing this type of cancer if you:

  • Are younger than 45
  • Became sexually active at a young age
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have had multiple full-term pregnancies (three or more)
  • Smoke regularly or have a family history of smoking
  • Take medication that weakens your immune system
  • Use long-term birth control medication

What you can do

While knowing how to detect risks is important, we want to emphasize the value of making lifestyle changes to lessen your risk. The absolute most important thing you can do to decrease your risk is getting a regular screening for cervical cancer. If your cervical cancer screening test results are not normal, you should consult your doctor right away.

Other than getting screened, you can help prevent cervical cancer by:

  • Avoiding being in areas where people smoke so that you won’t inhale secondhand smoke
  • Eating a plant-based diet that consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains
  • Getting vaccinated for HPV
  • Using protection during sex

Don’t run the risk of letting cervical cancer spring up on you! Get screened today with the women’s healthspecialists at Touro.