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Simple Lifestyle Changes and Healthy Habits That Can Help Prevent Cervical CancerJanuary 31, 2024
By David P. Warshal, MD, FACOG, Director of Gynecologic Oncology,
Gynecologic Oncologist, Redeemer Health in partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper
Each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Most women don't usually experience symptoms until the disease has advanced and affected surrounding tissues.
While various treatment options exist for cervical cancer, it's better to focus on prevention rather than relying solely on a cure. The good news is, by adopting healthy habits and lifestyle changes, women can significantly reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.
Below are several steps a woman can take to reduce the risk of cervical cancer:
- Get Regular Pap Tests or an HPV test with or without a Pap. Getting regular Pap and HPV tests is crucial for the early detection of cervical cancer. Pap tests can help detect abnormal cells in the cervix before they turn cancerous. HPV testing detects the virus that is associated with the development of almost all cervical cancers. Women should begin getting Pap tests at age 21 and continue to get them regularly every three years. HPV testing can be added at the discretion of your gynecologist. Women who have a high risk of cervical cancer may need to get more frequent tests. Your gynecologist can share information with you about the latest guidelines.
- Get Vaccinated. One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent cervical cancer and a variety of additional cancers is by getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys aged 11-12 years, but it can be given up to age 45.
- Practice Safe Sex. Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can elevate the chances of developing cervical cancer. Adopting safer sex practices, such as consistent condom use and limiting sexual partners, can greatly decrease your risk of cervical cancer.
- Eat a Balanced Diet. Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants - all of which supports a strong immune system and can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Limiting red and processed meats, unhealthy fats, and sugars can further reduce the risk, as these have been linked to an increased risk of cancers.
- Avoid Smoking. Smoking weakens the immune system, making it easier for HPV to cause cancer. Women who smoke are also less responsive to treatment than non-smokers. Quitting smoking can improve your health in many ways; reducing your risk of cervical cancer is one of them.
- Exercise Regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important since obesity has been associated with less effective screening and treatment for cervical cancer.
The bottom line is that cervical cancer can be preventable if you get Pap tests regularly, receive the HPV vaccination when recommended, and adopt the above healthy habits and lifestyle changes.
Don't wait. Start taking control of your cervical health today.
About the Author: Dr. David Warshal is the Director of Gynecologic Oncology and Gynecologic Oncologist at Redeemer Health in partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. He also serves as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cooper Medical School or Rowan University. Dr. Warshal received his medical degree from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. He has more than 37 years of experience in gynecological oncology and obstetrics-gynecology. He is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (Obstetrics & Gynecology - General) and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (Gynecologic Oncology).