6 Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer

How To Reduce Your Risk of Cervical Cancer

Woman waiting
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Cervical cancer (a malignant tumor of the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus) is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Because of the Pap smear test, the number of cervical cancer cases has actually dropped over the past 20 years. However, many women still develop cervical cancer. In fact, over 9,000 women in the U.S. develop cervical cancer every year.

While some cases of cervical cancer cannot be prevented, there are many things a woman can do to reduce her risk of developing cervical cancer.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Cervical Cancer

Get a regular Pap smear. A Pap smear can be the greatest defense against cervical cancer. It can detect cervical changes early on, before they have a chance to turn into cancer. 

New cervical cancer screening guidelines released by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend testing every three years for women ages 21-65. The two groups also introduced the option of a lengthened, five-year screening interval for women ages 30-65 when done with a combination of Pap testing and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing.

Limit the amount of sexual partners you have. Studies have shown that women who have many sexual partners increase their risk for cervical cancer. You also increase your risk of developing HPV, which has been shown to lead to cervical cancer.

Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer.

Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia. Your best bet is to kick the habit.

If you are sexually active, use a condom. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can increase your risk factor for developing cervical cancer.

Follow up on abnormal Pap smears. If you have had an abnormal Pap smear, it is important to follow up with regular Pap smears or colposcopies, and whatever else your doctor has recommended for you. If you have been treated for cervical dysplasia, you still need to follow up with Pap smears or colposcopies. Dysplasia can return and, when undetected, can turn into cervical cancer.

Get the HPV vaccine. If you are under 27, you may be eligible to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents high risk strains of HPV in women. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved by the FDA for use with girls as young as 9. The vaccine is most effective when given to young women before they become sexually active.

Again, cervical cancer prevention should be a top priority for all women. Small lifestyle adjustments, combined with regular medical care, can go a long way in preventing cervical cancer.

Learn more about cervical cancer. Read up on risk factors, causes, symptoms, diagnostics, treatment, and prevention.

For something that's so easy to prevent, it would be a shame to ignore this aspect of your health.

Continue Reading