PreventionBy Mayo Clinic staff
You may reduce your risk of cervical cancer if you:
- Use a condom every time you have sex, to reduce your risk of contracting HPV
- Delay first intercourse
- Have fewer sexual partners
- Avoid smoking
- Get vaccinated against HPV
Get vaccinated against HPV
Vaccines can protect against the most dangerous types of HPV — the virus that plays a role in causing most cervical cancers. Vaccination is available for girls ages 9 to 12, as well as girls and women ages 13 to 26 if they haven't received the vaccine already. The vaccine is most effective if given to girls before they become sexually active.
Although it's hoped that the vaccine will prevent most cervical cancer cases, it can't prevent infection with every virus that causes cervical cancer. Routine Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer remain important.
Have routine Pap tests
Routine Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix so they can be followed or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Work with your doctor to determine the best schedule for Pap tests. Most medical organizations suggest women begin routine Pap tests at age 21. For women between the ages of 21 and 29, most organizations recommend having the test every two to three years. For women between the ages of 30 and 65, the recommendation is for a Pap test every three years, or every five years when the Pap test is combined with an HPV test. Talk with your doctor about what's best for you.
If you're at high risk of cervical cancer, you'll need more frequent Pap tests. If you've had a hysterectomy, talk with your doctor about whether to continue getting Pap tests. If the hysterectomy was done for a noncancerous condition, such as fibroids, you may be able to discontinue routine Pap tests, but not pelvic exams. If the hysterectomy was done for a precancerous or cancerous condition, your vaginal canal still needs to be checked for abnormal changes.
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