The best way to beat any cancer, is preventing it in the first place. While we don’t want to become overly obsessive in a quest to, “do everything right” in prevention, it is important to be aware of what is within our control and make the best choices for ourselves. Many people are not comfortable with the topic of cancer, I get it, I used to feel that way. But, having cancer and going through treatment is far more uncomfortable than learning the facts about it.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, so, ladies, this one is for you!
You go in for that check up, you know, the one you don’t like, but do it anyway. The doctor talks with you, does a breast exam, and then…the stirrups. We know it’s important, but do you really know what the doctor is doing?
Do you even know the purpose of a Pap smear?
A pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix to test for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. And, if caught early, it may be curable. While the cause of cervical cancer isn’t clear, HPV does play a role. Most people with the virus never develop cancer, which means lifestyle factors contribute to a diagnosis, but HPV is found in the majority of cervical cancers.
What are the risk factors?
This is a no judgement zone, but you do need to be real with yourself and know that early sexual activity, as well as many sexual partners, increases your chance of acquiring HPV and puts you at a higher risk for cervical cancer. Having other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also increase your risk. Smoking puts you at risk for one type of cervical cancer and if you have a lowered immune system due to another health condition and have HPV you may be more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Steps to prevention!
Most women who have abnormal cervical cell changes that progress to cervical cancer have never had a Pap test or have not had one in the previous three to five years. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions so they can be monitored and treated. Talk with your doctor about their recommendation for routine screening. While you’re there, you may want to consider discussing whether an HPV vaccine is appropriate for you. Practicing safe sex and not smoking are additional lifestyle practices that will keep you on the path of prevention.
The health of your cervix is not likely on your mind daily, but perhaps this gentle reminder this month will encourage you to make your health a priority. What’s good for your cervix, is also good for your whole body! Besides maintaining healthy relationships, fuel your body with nutritious food and quality sleep. These things are the combo for prevention of a multitude of disease, and will allow you to truly live in health.