Unlike a lot of other cancers, cervical cancer prevention is possible at least to an extent. There are certain things in our own power that can help us reduce the risk of contracting this type of deadly cancer.
We look at some general tips for cervical cancer prevention as well as the efficacy of the cervical cancer vaccine:
Practice safe sex
Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of contracting an HPV infection and consequently risk of cervical cancer goes up.
Practicing safe sex and limiting the number of sex partners is will lower risk not only of HPV and consequent cervical cancer but also a number of other sexually transmitted infections.
Undergo Regular Screening (Pap Smears)
Regular pap smears are the most effective tool for cervical cancer prevention because they are able to detect early abnormalities of the cervix and vagina. This helps to detect any pre-cancerous changes (dysplasia) so that the progress of the disease can be halted and treatment started in time.
If an abnormal pap smear is detected, the doctor will go on to perform a colposcopy to find out more about the abnormality. It is important not only to undergo pap smears at the recommended intervals, follow ups after treatment of dysplasia is also important for cervical cancer prevention.
If a woman has received treatment for dysplasia, the dysplasia can still return at a later date, and this can turn into cervical cancer if not detected and treated.
Smoking and inhaling second hand smoke are known risk factors for this cancer so one of the things you can do to lower risk of cervical cancer is to stop smoking and staying away from second hand smoke as well.
How effective is the cervical cancer vaccine for cervical cancer prevention?
It can certainly sound wonderful to think that you can take a shot and be protected against a deadly disease such as cancer. However it is important to understand exactly what a cervical cancer vaccine does and how effective it is.
There are about a 100 different types of HPV vaccine and the vaccines currently available are able to protect against some of those. Gardasil is effective against types 16, 18, 6, and 11 and to an extent against 9, 31 and others. Cervarix is effective against types 16 and 18 and to some extent against types 45 and 18.
According to Mayo clinic, both these vaccines are effective in cervical cancer prevention because they can “prevent most cases of cervical cancer if given before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus” and that they also “prevent most vulvar and vaginal cancers” and prevent genital warts in men and women.
Though the recommended age of vaccination is 11 or 12 years of age for girls (before they become sexually active), it has been seen that the vaccine is also effective to some extent when administered after a woman has become sexually active.
There are some reports of adverse reactions to the cervical cancer vaccine, which also should be taken into account and the benefits should be weighed against the risks before opting for the vaccine.