Cervical Health – what you need to know

Most of the time your cervix is happy and healthy, doing its job for a lifetime with no problems. But, there are some common risks that all cervices are exposed to, the most threatening of those being the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is very common. In fact, most sexually active people have HPV at some point and nearly 13,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Yet, cervical cancer is most often preventable. So, what can we do to keep our cervix healthy and protect ourselves against HPV and cervical cancer?

Visit your OB/GYN once a year – yes, you!

All women should go in for their annual check-up. In your yearly check-up, they will screen you for cervical cancer by getting a Pap smear. This checks your cervix for abnormal cells caused by HPV. Most women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap smear every 3 years. The most important thing is to talk with your doctor so they can tell you what is right for you. Because many women, such as those who have had treatment in the past for abnormal Pap results, need a Pap smear more frequently. Even if you do not need a Pap smear every year, it is still important to go to your annual check-up to help detect other reproductive illnesses. Catching HPV and other issues early is the key to prevention!

Pay attention to changes

If you notice any changes, such as menstrual changes, abnormal bleeding, discharge, pain, pain or bleeding during sex, schedule an appointment to determine the need for an exam.

Use protection

HPV can be passed through sexual activity, even if there is no penetration. Make sure you are using a condom and protecting yourself if you are not in a committed, monogamous relationship, or are having sex with a new partner.

Get the HPV vaccine

The CDC recommends that all kids who are 11 or 12 years or older should get the vaccine, if not given at that age it is still recommended for all girls through age 26, and boys through age 21. The HPV is the most important effect way to prevent against cervical cancer and the spreading of HPV.

Cervical cancer may not cause obvious symptoms

Cervical cancer is slow-moving and many women don’t have obvious symptoms before being diagnosed with cervical cancer. This is why it is so important to follow the tips above; go to your annual exam, get the HPV vaccine and use protection, so you are receiving maximum protection and at the same time detect any issue before it becomes serious and life-changing.

To learn more about cervical health or to make an appointment with a Certified Nurse Midwife at Sixteenth Street for a pelvic exam call 414-672-1353.

Authored by: Tracy Herrmann, CNM, Department of Midwifery Director

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