Taking Care of Your Cervical Health
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
By Kelli Suiter, RN
How surprised would you be to learn that over 50% of women don’t understand the reason they have a cervix?
There are roughly 12,000 women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year.
About 4,000 women die from cervical cancer.
With that information alone, it’s important for women to take charge of their bodies and learn as much as they can! The old saying is really true... KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
What is the cervix?
Your cervix is the opening area to your uterus
It connects or acts like a door between the vagina and uterus.
Why is the cervix important?
Keeps unhealthy things from going into your body
Holds your baby in place during pregnancy
Is the door to the uterus where sperm travel to the eggs.
What are ways to take care of the cervix?
Use condoms during sex
Make sure to get cervical checks from your physician
What are cervical checks and how often do I need them?
Cervical checks are called PAPs or PAP smears. This is where your physician will use a special tool to rub the surface the cervix. The tool has a small brush on the tip that will collect cells on the cervix surface to check for things such as cervical cancer. Changes in the cervix cells can take 3 to 7 years to become cancerous so that is one huge reason routine cervical screenings are important. If these cells are caught early, treatment can be started easier and faster. Women who have had a hysterectomy but still have their cervix will still need to have PAPs completed.
There are certain time frames for women, depending on age and medical history, as to when PAP smears are recommended:
20 and younger= no screening needed
21-29= need to have a PAP every 3 years
30-65= have 3 options:
PAP smear every 3 years
HPV every 5 years with co-testing (PAP)
HPV testing every 5 years
65 and older= no routine screening is recommended if there is no family history of cervical cancer, along with 3 negative PAP smears in a row, or 2 negative co-testing in a row in 10 years.
Your doctor may change these recommendations depending on your specific needs or family history of cervical cancer.
What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. This virus can cause genital warts and change your cervical cells that can lead to cancer overtime. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It can be spread by skin to skin contact during vaginal, oral and anal sex. People can often show no symptoms of the virus which is a big reason the virus is spread very easily.
Is there a vaccine for HPV?
Yes! There is a vaccine that can help reduce the risk of HPV by 99% when all vaccines have been completed. There are age recommendations for this vaccine:
9-14= 2 doses
15-26= 3 doses
If you are interested in taking the vaccine and do not fall into one of the above age recommendations, discuss this situation with your doctor to find out the best plan for you.