Fashion Designer Spokeswoman for the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation
People magazine 4/27/2009
HOW YOU CAN HELP PREVENT
Your Self chec Keeping Healthy Guide
Cervical Cancer is nearly 100% preventable. Annual check-ups and early detection through a Pap screening test is a woman’s best way of staying healthy.
What you need to know
The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 80 types of HPV in all. About 30 of them can infect the cervix and about half of those have been linked to cervical cancer. HPV infections that cause cervical cancer are spread mainly through sexual contact.
HPV infection is extremely common, but only a very small number of women infected with HPV will go on to develop cervical cancer. In most women, the body clears the virus on its own. Testing is the only way to know for sure.
Limit your sexual partners and use condoms, which offer some (though not total) protection against HPV. Total protection isn’t possible because a condom can’t cover every possible HPV-infected area of the body, including all around the genitals. However, men who use condoms are less likely to be infected with HPV or spread to it their partners. When condoms are used correctly every time you have sex, they can lower the HPV infection rate by about 70% as well as protect against HIV and some other STDs. Check out Practice Safer Sex here.
Talk to your children about getting the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active.
The HPV vaccine is nearly 100% effective in preventing those HPV viruses that are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.
The Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices states that girls as young as 9 may get the vaccine at the discretion of their doctors and also recommends catch-up vaccinations for women ages 13 to 26. It is also recommended for boys from age 9 to 26. If you’re young enough, get the vaccine. If you have children, click here for some great tips from the CDC about how to talk to your kids before they become sexually active.
Get regular cervical cancer screenings.
Research has shown that some women who began having sexual intercourse before age 18 and have had many sexual partners may have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. If you fall into this category, talk to your doctor about how often you should get a Pap test.
Beginning at age 65 to 70, ask your doctor if you need to continue getting regular Pap tests and Pelvic exams.
Good resources for you to learn more:
The National Cancer Institute’s “Cervical Cancer Prevention” page
The MD Anderson Cancer Center’s “5 Pap Test Facts Women Should Know” page
Start the conversation about Cervical Cancer: