All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women over the age of 30. A long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests as well as a vaccine to prevent HPV infections are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.
What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Cervical Cancer? The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. There are two screening tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early - a Pap test and/or an HPV test.
The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes. Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer? Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.
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