Screen for HPV and Cervical Cancer
Aside from getting vaccinated, screening tests can also be used to prevent cervical cancer. Two types of tests could potentially prevent HPV infection from turning into cancer of the cervix.
- HPV Test. In HPV testing, the doctor will collect sample cells from the woman’s cervix. They will then send the samples to the laboratory to check for the presence of HPV strains that could be linked to cervical cancer. Typically, the presence of the virus will cause some changes in the cervical cells.
- Pap Smear. Pap smear follows a similar process as that of an HPV test, in the sense that cervical cells will be taken from the woman. The only difference is, instead of looking for HPV, the doctors will look for abnormal cell changes or pre-cancer cells.
There’s another test called VIA or visual inspection with acetic acid. In this test, the healthcare provider will expose the cervix to diluted acetic acid or vinegar. Abnormal cervical tissues will temporarily appear white when exposed to vinegar. However, this is not a go-to test, especially if HPV testing and Pap test are available.
Guidelines for HPV and Pap Smear
- By the age of 21, women should undergo a Pap smear upon the advise of a doctor.
- If the result is negative, the doctor may ask for another Pap smear screening after 3 years.
- When a woman reaches 30 years old, she’ll have the option to: a) have a Pap test every 3 years, b) have co-testing of HPV and Pap smear every 5 years, and c) undergo HPV test every 5 years.
Practice Safe Sex
Since women can contract HPV through sexual activities, experts highly recommended safe sex practices. Women could:
- Try to have just one partner in their sexual activities. Research shows that people with multiple sexual partners have a heightened risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Use condoms during penetrative sex. Since women can get HPV through sex, using a condom may reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
- Remember that HPV can also be acquired through non-penetrative sex. Hence, using a condom will not totally protect a woman from HPV.
- Finally, she must avoid having sexual intercourse with people who have obvious signs of sexually transmitted infections, like genital warts.
One little thing a woman can do to prevent cervical cancer is to quit smoking. Research shows that tobacco products could damage the DNA of the cervical cells. This could “double the risk” of the development of cancer of the cervix.