January is Cervical Health Awareness month. To promote good cervical health, there are three steps we encourage all women to take. These steps are simple and greatly reduce a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia (the development of abnormal cells in the cervix).
Get Regular Pap Smears
First, one step to good cervical health is getting regular Pap smears. The general guidelines are for for women between the ages of 21 and 29 to have a Pap smear every 3 years if they have had no abnormal cervical cells in the past. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 may have a Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years. However, what is best in your situation will depend on the recommendations of your doctor.
Practice Safe Sex
In 99% of cervical cancer cases, the HPV virus is present. 1 This sexually transmitted infection (STI) is spread through sexual, skin-to-skin contact. Safe sex helps prevents STIs, and penile penetration is not needed to transmit this virus. Heterosexual and homosexual couples are both at risk. Condoms are not 100 percent effective at preventing the spread of HPV, but studies show that they do provide some protection. 2
Beware of Symptoms
Cervical cancer rarely presents early symptoms. However, you should always report any concerning symptoms you are experiencing to your doctor. Symptoms that may indicate a cervical problem include vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, abnormal vaginal bleeding and vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse.
If you have other questions or concerns regarding cervical health, visit our women’s health page to find the contact information for MMG Gynecology and Obstetrics.
1 National Cervical Cancer Coalition. Cervical Cancer Overview.
2 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel. 5 March 2013.
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