Estimates say that 160 million women in India live with the risk of developing cervical cancer, with thousands being diagnosed every year. Yet, cervical cancer is one cancer that you can actively prevent. To reduce the risk of cervical cancer, all you have to do is follow some precautions. You can avert a lifetime of anxiety, illness, pain and medical expenses. Read on to know more.
What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the lowermost part of the uterus that opens into the vaginal passage. Mutation and abnormal development of cells in the cervix cause cervical cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the chief reason that triggers this kind of cancer. In fact, in more than 90% of the cases of cervical cancer, HPV has been detected. The other factors that pair with HPV and cause this cancer are-
- A weak immune system
- Malnutrition or improper eating
HPV is surprisingly common and a majority of people who change sexual partners are exposed to it. Usually, the body’s immunity can destroy the invading virus and most people do not show any symptoms of infection. But if a woman’s immunity is weak, her cervix can be affected by HPV. And in some cases, the HPV trigger changes in the structure of the cervical cells. This is the beginning of cervical cancer.
Smoking and lack of proper nutrition are responsible for making the immune system weak.
Cervical cancer screening:
By simply avoiding the risk factors of this ailment, you can reduce the risk of cervical cancer by the below regular tests:
1. Take the fight to HPV
Since the real cause of this cancer is almost always HPV, you have to make sure that you are not exposed to it. Here are a few pointers on how you can do that-
- Do not engage in sexual activities with a person who has HPV.
- Always use protection when you have intercourse.
- Avoid having multiple sexual partners.
- If you have an active sex life, you should get yourself an HPV shot.
Moreover, if you bleed after intercourse, take it up with your doctor.
2. Pap smears are imperative
Once you turn 21, schedule a pap smear every three years. And in your 30s, opt for one every 5 years. Pap smear can detect any abnormalities in the cervix. In the early stage, cervical cancer does not exhibit any signs. So you might not even know that you have contracted it until it’s too late. But with regular pap smears, you can take the right action at the right time.
Pair your pap smear with HPV screening tests that can find traces of the virus in your uterus if any. You may not have contracted cancer, but there could be HPV in your uterus which could lead to cancer in the future.
A few other things you can do to reduce the risk of cervical cancer
Now that we’ve covered the major tips, we come to the ways you can further boost your defence against cervical cancer-
- Lose weight if your BMI is above normal.
- Try not to use birth control pills for long stretches of time. Instead, opt for other measures of contraception such as IUDs.
- Eat plenty of green vegetables, coloured vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds to boost your immunity.
- Do not smoke: Smoking can cause irreparable damage to all parts of your body. It actually increases your risk of developing cervical cancer by two times. This is because smoking weakens your immune system, which means your body is left without weapons during an HPV attack.
It can be said that cervical cancer to a large extent is the result of carelessness. It is preventable by using protection at all times, eating healthily, and by avoiding smoking.