Knowing the signs and causes of certain diseases is a way to stay informed about our bodies. Being informed is also key to protecting your own health and being responsible for things within your control.

Though cancer is a terrible disease that does not discriminate, there are certain things you can do to lower your risk of getting it. For women, cervical cancer is the most commonly diagnosed gynecological cancer after uterine. Once a woman learns she has it, she sometimes doesn’t know the cause.

In this video from Know More TV, Dr. Evelyn Minaya explains cervical cancer and some ways to prevent it. Most women are used to visiting the doctor for wellness checks. That typically includes a pap smear and breast exam. But do you understand what the pap smear is supposed to detect? They screen for abnormal cells caused by the Human Papilloma Virus – HPV.

As Dr. Minaya explains, HPV causes the majority of cervical cancer diagnoses. It is a sexually transmitted infection but sometimes doesn’t show any signs or symptoms. In some cases, the infection goes away on its own. In others, HPV can lead to cancer or warts. In addition to cervical cancer, HPV is also linked to vulva, oral, or anal cancers.

Out of the 100+ strains of HPV, there are less than 20 that the National Cancer Institute considers high risk that lead to cancer. Further, they state that there are two primary types of HPV that are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases.

Cervical cancer commonly hits women mid-life, between the ages of 40 -60, but can also affect women who are much younger. According to the American Cancer Society, it is still imperative that women over 60 continued to get screened, as over 15% of new cervical cancer cases are in women over age 65.

Pap smears are a reliable way to screen for cervical cancer, but some symptoms include pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding. Women who are considered high risk for this cancer type include those who smoke, use birth control pills for a prolonged period of time, or who have multiple partners.

To prevent your chances of getting cervical cancer, Dr. Minaya recommends regular checkups and follow-up treatment for abnormal cervical cell results. If the pap smear picks up precancerous cells or cancerous cells in the cervix, your physician will determine the best treatment protocol.

She also suggests considering the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is available for females and males who are between ages 9 and 26, and prevents an individual from becoming infected with HPV. Speak with your doctor for details about the vaccine.

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Lastly, Dr. Minaya recommends practicing safe and responsible sex by using a condom. Wearing protection can cut down the risk of acquiring the HPV infection (and other STIs). To hear her advice for married couples and the lowdown on HPV, click on the clip below.
Staying up to date with exams and paying attention to your body can save your life! Even if you feel you have no symptoms, get checked.

Were you aware of the Human Papilloma Virus? Do you receive regular cancer screenings?