Cervical cancer is a deadly cancer. It kills thousands of women every year. However, cervical cancer death rate can be brought down, because cervical cancers can be prevented. Today scientists and doctors have a vast array of knowledge about cervical cancers. Most of the risk factors have been identified.
Scientists have found that high risk human papilloma viruses are directly linked to cervical cancers. Screening tests have been developed to detect HPV infections and precancerous lesions. These tests are very effective in preventing cervical cancers. Moreover, today there is greater awareness about cervical cancers and this has helped to prevent cervical cancers. Let us learn in more detail about how to prevent cervical cancers.
HPV Cause Cervical Cancers
All cervical cancer cases show HPV infections in some point in the past. This direct link between HPVs and cervical cancers means that if we can prevent HPV infections or detect HPV infections in time, we can prevent cervical cancers in vast majority of the cases. In order to prevent HPV infections we have to first learn how widespread it is and how it is transmitted.
Widespread Prevalence of HPV Infections
More than half the sexually active population gets infected with HPV sooner or later in their lives. According to various statistics, HPV is the most commonly occurring sexually transmitted disease (STD) worldwide. Transmission Moreover, it is easily transmitted. Mere contact with the infected skin part is enough to transmit this infection from one person to another. In an infected person, the HPV can be detected in the skin cells of the pubic area, which will be the vulva in women and penis shaft in males.
They will also be found in the inner lining (made up of epithelial cells) of the cervix and vagina in women. In the infected person, the HPV will also be found thriving in inner lining of anus and urethra in both males and females. This means that mere contact of the pubic area of the female with the male or vice versa is enough to transmit the virus from female to male or vice versa. This also means that wearing a condom does not guarantee protection from HPV.
How To Prevent HPV Infection
It is a given fact that HPV is directly linked to cervical cancers. It is also a given fact that HPV infections spread through sexual contact. Thus if you want to prevent cervical cancer, you have to first prevent HPV infection. You can do this by avoiding coming in contact with HPV infection in the first place.
One of the ways you can limit your exposure to the high risk HPV infections is by limiting your sexual partners. Men and women who have numerous sexual partners are at high risk for HPV infection. If you have a partner who has had many sexual partners, you should remember that you are exposing yourself to HPV infections. If you are serious about preventing cervical cancer, it is best to avoid such partners.
Women and men who start having sex at very young age are putting themselves at risk for HPV infection. Women who become sexually active at very young age are more likely to have many sexual partners than women who become sexually active at a later stage in their lives. As mentioned above, more sexual partners translate into high risk for HPV infection.
Women who have uncircumcised male partners are also at increased risk for HPV infections and thus cervical cancers. If you follow the above mentioned suggestions, you will be able to considerably reduce your exposure to infections caused by HPVs.
Tips to Prevent Cervical Cancer
One of the sure shot ways to prevent cervical cancers is by getting vaccinated against HPV infections. At present there are two vaccines available against HPV infections. Gardasil was approved in 2006 in USA. This vaccination provides protection against HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18. Gardasil vaccination can be used for both males and females.
Cervarix is another vaccination against HPV infections. This vaccination was approved by the FDA in 2009. Cervarix provides protection against HPV 16 and 18, the two main types of HPVs that are responsible for majority of the cervical cancer cases. Cervarix can only be used in females. Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines consist of three injections, which are administered over a period of six months.
Protection Against Cancers
Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines are very effective in preventing some of the HPV infections. Gardasil not only provides protection against cervical cancers, but also against anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. This vaccine is also quite effective in preventing genital and anal warts caused by HPVs.
When To Get Vaccinated
One must remember that both these vaccinations are quite successful in preventing HPV infections. However, they cannot treat a HPV infection that is already present in the body. In other words, it is of no use having these vaccinations, if you already have a HPV infection.
According to American Cancer Society girls should started getting these vaccinations at the young age of 11 or 12. In some cases, if the doctor thinks it is advisable, then the vaccinations can be started at 9 years of age.
It is recommended that these vaccinations be given at very young age, because at that point no sexual activity would have taken place. The girls who are vaccinated at young age are able to get the full protection against HPV infections.
Regular Cervical Screening
Cervical cancers can easily be prevented with the help of cervical screening tests, like Pap test and HPV test. According to American Cancer Society, cervical cancers are often diagnosed in women who did not go for regular cervical screening tests. Pap test is able to detect precancerous lesions in the cervix. HPV tests are designed to detect the presence of HPV infections. Some of HPV tests can determine which type of HPV infection is present in a woman.
If precancerous lesion is discovered in time, it can be treated completely and thus cervical cancer can be prevented. HPV infections cannot be treated. However, if HPV infection is present, the doctor will advise you to go for Pap test on a regular basis so that precancerous lesions can be detected as and when they develop.
First Pap Test At 21 According to the American Cancer Society, women should have their first Pap test at the age of 21. Women between the age group of 21 and 29 do not need to have this test every year. They can have the Pap test after every three years. However, women between the age group of 21 and 29 do not need to have the HPV tests. The doctor will recommend the HPV test, if something abnormal shows up on the Pap test.
For 30-65 Age Group Women between the age group of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test and HPV test after every five year. If the woman is only opting for a Pap test, then she should keep a three years gap between two Pap tests.
Women, who have had regular cervical screening tests and are above the age of 65, do not need to go for cervical screening anymore. However, women with a previous history of cervical cancer should continue with the screening. Women who had a precancerous lesion detected in the cervix need to continue with the cervical screening tests for a minimum of 20 years.
Learning About Cervical Cancers
When you increase your knowledge about cervical cancers, you are actually empowering yourself in the fight against this deadly cancer. For example, if you know about the risk factors associated with cervical cancers, you will be able to reduce some of the risk factors relating to you. This way you might be able to prevent cervical cancer in your case. If you know about cervical screening tests, importance of practicing safe sex, and HPV vaccinations, you are in a better position to prevent cervical cancer.
Cervical screening tests and increased awareness about cervical cancers have been able to reduce cervical cancer rates in US and UK. The same can be done in developing countries.