January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Thanks to prevention efforts, cases of cervical cancer – once the leading cause of cancer death for women – are dropping every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are some tips for preventing cervical cancer:
1. Get regular Pap tests
Women 21 years or older should begin getting Pap tests, also known as Pap smears, at least every three years. These screenings can detect precancerous cells, allowing your physician to begin treatment before cervical cancer has the chance to develop.
2. Get vaccinated
The HPV virus is directly linked to increased chances of developing cervical cancer, so getting vaccinated against HPV at an early age can decrease your future risk. Cervarix and Gardasil are two vaccinations recommended for women as early as age 9. However, you can receive these vaccinations as late as 26 years old if you haven’t been previously vaccinated.
3. Practice healthy habits
Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking and poor nutrition. Choosing to adopt a healthy lifestyle can decrease your chance of developing this disease and many others. Make sure you are staying active and eating healthfully, especially if you are between the ages of 35 and 44, when most cervical cancer cases are diagnosed.
If you are a woman over age 21 and haven’t had a recent Pap test, you should schedule an appointment with a gynecologist. UCF Health offers gynecology services at both its East Orlando and Lake Nona locations.
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