January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and we want to tell you about four things that may help reduce your risk for cervical cancer.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is a narrow passage at the end of the uterus, which opens into the vagina.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cervical cancer most often affects women younger than age 50, although about 20% of cervical cancers are diagnosed in women older than 65. The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are: abnormal vaginal bleeding (take note of anything that doesn’t seem normal for you), abnormal vaginal discharge, and pain during or after sex.

How to Reduce Your Risk for Cervical Center

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cervical cancer, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk including:

  • Get Tested There are two tests that are used to screen for cervical cancer: a Pap test and an HPV test. During a Pap test, a sample of cells is taken from the cervix and tested for cancer or other conditions that may develop into cancer. An HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus, which can cause cell changes that may turn into cervical cancer. Your doctor may recommend these tests every three or five years if you’ve had normal results before.
  • Consider an HPV Vaccine There are two HPV vaccines that protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The vaccines are given in three separate doses and are recommended for girls aged 11-12, but may also be given until age 26. Talk with your doctor and determine if these vaccines are right for you.
  • Don’t Smoke If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit. The human body begins to repair itself as soon as hours after your last cigarette. Smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer, and all other types of cancer
  • Live a Healthy Lifestyle Maintain a healthy weight, ensure your diet includes many fresh fruits and vegetables, and get regular exercise. These lifestyle choices can lower your risk for cervical cancer as well as many other diseases and conditions.

Know Your Risk, Talk With Your Doctor

Cervical cancer is more common in the following groups of women:

  • Women with HPV, lowered immune systems, or genital herpes
  • Black, Hispanic, and American Indian women
  • Women who smoke
  • Women younger than 50, especially between the late teens and mid-30s

Know your personal risk and talk with your doctor about the screening tests that are right for you and how you can reduce your risk of cervical cancer.