Did you know the number one cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV? Human Papillomavirus is a family of viruses transmitted through sexual contact, including over 40 types that can infect the genital areas of males and females.
Most types of HPV cause no symptoms and will go away on their own, but some types can cause pre-cancerous changes to the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina), cervical cancer and other genital cancers. Anyone who has had, or will have, sexual intercourse during his or her lifetime is at risk of contracting HPV.
So how can you protect yourself and the ones you love?
HPV Vaccine—Vaccination is the first step and the one true prevention of most HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer. The FDA, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the medical community at large recommend the cervical cancer vaccine. “Vaccination is recommended for all girls, and now boys, between the ages of 9 and 26 to prevent them from developing the HPV virus,” says Dr. Emma Rossi, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Indiana University School of Medicine.
Early vaccination is important, because the cervical cancer vaccine works best when given before the onset of sexual activity. And because the HPV virus affects both females and males, vaccinating all girls and boys will help to eradicate the HPV virus completely. The cervical cancer vaccine can’t cause HPV or cervical cancer. Side effects may include redness, tenderness or a little bit of swelling at the injection site.
Regular Screenings—The second step is getting regular annual screenings. Cervical changes can be detected in early stages on pap smears and, if detected, can be treated before developing into cancer. Don’t wait until you have cervical cancer symptoms, which can include vaginal bleeding or pain and bleeding after intercourse—all women need to have regular pap smears to catch any cervical changes that might lead to cancer.
It’s easy to prevent cervical cancer. Don’t wait for symptoms, such as bleeding or pain and bleeding after intercourse. Get the cervical cancer vaccine to prevents HPV and cervical cancer from developing and get routine Pap smear screenings to ensure that cervical changes are caught early.