5 ways to be proactive in protecting yourself against cervical cancer

Simple screening helps doctors look for abnormal changes

Being aware of your cervical health is a vital part of staying healthy. While it may not always be fun to talk or think about, every woman should take the time to ensure she is cognizant of what’s happening with her body.

It’s not difficult, and with a few easy steps, women can greatly reduce the risk of developing serious health problems, such as cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer.

These tips can help you be proactive In keeping good cervical health and in leading a healthier life.

1. Get the HPV vaccination.

The HPV vaccine protects against the most common sub-strains of the human papillomavirus, which are known to cause cervical cancer in women.

Women infected with the sub-strains can develop cervical dysplasia. If left untreated and unmonitored, it can develop into cervical cancer.

Talking to your doctor about the vaccine is the first step you can take in educating yourself. While the recommended age to get the HPV vaccine is 11 through 12, people ages 9 to 45 can get it, as well. If you don’t fall within the age range, it’s still worth discussing with your doctor.

2. Schedule regular Pap smears.

Don’t let getting a Pap smear land low on the priority list. Though it may be mistaken as merely a diagnostic test, getting regular tests can help prevent cervical cancer. The simple screening helps your doctor look for abnormal cervical changes that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

Typically, cervical cancer takes multiple years to grow and develop. Scheduling routine Pap smears can detect those changes before they become dangerous.

As every woman is different, their required frequency of Pap smears varies. Ask your doctor how frequently you should schedule them. If you’ve never had one before, there is no better time than now.

3. Follow your doctor’s recommendations.

If you’re someone who has put off scheduling a follow-up, exam or treatment, you’re not alone. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations to stay on top of your health and ahead of any issues.

If you are unsure of your doctor’s diagnosis or if you disagree with their recommendation, get a second opinion. And never hesitate to ask questions.

4. Practice safe sex.

Practicing safe sex isn’t just about avoiding unwanted pregnancies. It also helps prevent sexually transmitted diseases and infections. HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that can spread through skin-to-skin contact. Because intercourse isn’t necessary to spread the virus, anyone who is physically intimate is at risk of contracting HPV. While condoms aren’t 100% effective at preventing the infection, they can provide some protection.

5. Report symptoms to your doctor.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms or changes you notice with your body.

Early stages of cervical cancer very rarely display any symptoms, so when something does presents itself, it’s important to tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Discomfort, pain and other issues are abnormal and should not be ignored. Let your doctor know about issues such as pain during sexual intercourse, abnormal vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods, abnormal vaginal discharge and vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse.

With this information in mind, you’re already on your way to a healthier you.

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