Cervical Cancer Prevention

The American Cancer Society predicts that 2021 will bring approximately 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer, and that approximately 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer this year.

Cervical cancer used to be the most common cause of cancer death among women in the United States, but things have changed. When cervical cancer is caught early, it is very treatable. The number of cases and deaths have decreased, but there are still more cases and more deaths than we’d like to see. Cervical cancer prevention is possible with regular Pap tests, HPV vaccination, and lifestyle changes.

Catch cervical cancer early

There are two screenings that can catch cervical cancer early. First, the Pap test. Also called a Pap smear, this test can find cervical cancers while they’re small and easy to treat. The Pap test can also catch changes in the cervix before cancer develops. 

A Pap test involves collecting cells from the cervix. It is not painful. Most invasive cervical cancers are found in women who have not had regular Pap tests, according to the American Cancer Society.

Women ages 21 – 69 should generally have a Pap test every three years. If you have delayed your Pap test during the pandemic, please call (479) 582-3366 to request an appointment. 

If there are any abnormalities in the cells, your doctor may order the HPV test. The Human Papilloma Virus is the most common cause of cervical cancer. It can take years or even decades for cervical cancer to develop from an HPV infection. Identifying pre-cancerous conditions or early  stages of cervical cancer allow highly effective treatments. 

Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy may be used to treat cervical cancer.

HPV vaccine

The most common cause of cervical cancer is Human Papilloma Virus. The HPV vaccine is highly effective at preventing HPV. It is most effective before exposure to HPV, so it is recommended for girls ages 9 to 14. If you have not had the HPV vaccine, or your daughter is at the age to receive it, call Renaissance Women’s Healthcare at (479) 582-3366. If you have a myMANA account, you can also  request an appointment online.

Lifestyle changes

Cervical cancer prevention is not a definite outcome of any action. However, the CDC reports that there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of cervical cancer:

  • Have regular Pap tests. That’s the most important step you can take.
  • Don’t smoke. If you already smoke, try to stop. Discuss options with your doctor. If you have never smoked, don’t start.
  • Limit sexual partners. Having fewer sexual partners reduces your chances of cervical cancer. However, HPV is a very common condition, and it is possible to have the virus for many years with no symptoms. This makes it difficult to avoid infection.
  • Use condoms. The use of condoms is associated with lower rates of cervical cancer.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Talk with your gynecologist if you have any questions.