Any woman is at risk of developing cervical cancer; however, there are certain measures that can be taken to reduce those risks (some risks women have no control over, such as: a genetic predisposition and age). Although, a risk is not a certainty that cervical cancer will develop, as there are many other factors that are associated with such a development.
Preventative measures that can be taken to off-set the risks of developing cervical cancer:
1. PAP Tests - are one of the most effective ways of preventing cervical cancer, as an early detection usually helps determine the fate of most women (cervical cancer usually shows no early signs or symptoms). The following is recommended:
AGE RANGE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PAP TESTING
(a) 21 – 29 years old every 2-years.
(b) 30 years old + every 3-years.
(c) 65 years old + are not necessary if the following apply: the last three PAP test results were normal, and with no abnormal results showing in the last 10 years. However, if this is not the case, regular PAP tests should be continued (consultation with a doctor or health adviser is recommended for an appropriate scheduling regime).
2. Practice Safe Sex - as STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) such as HPV (genital warts) are a prime risk factor in the development of cervical cancer (HPV infections are more prevalent when sexual activity begins before the age of 16 years old, and when a woman has multiple sexual partners). The following is recommended:
(a) Maintain a monogamous relationship (both partners having a sexual relationship with each other [no third partner involvement with either]).
(b) Always use a condom (even in a monogamous relationship until 100% confidence is built) while having sex, as condoms will cut-down the risks of a sexual disease being contracted (HPV infections can be transmitted by both perineal [the tissue area marking the approximate boundary - externally] of the pelvic outlet that gives passage to the urinogenital ducts and the rectum, and the area between the posterior part of the external genitalia and the anus) and perianal (the tissues surrounding the anus) contact where condoms are of little use.
3. Vaccinations – are available to counter the possibility of developing cervical cancer. Two vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) can help prevent cervical cancer by infection; however, they are not 100% reliable as they are only able to act against certain strains of HPV (strain 16 and 18) that account for over 90% of cervical cancer caused by HPV’s. The vaccine Gardasil also protects against two additional strains of HPV that cause genital warts.
Vaccines are applied in the following way:
(a) Gardasil – 3-injections required over a period of six months before sexual activity begins (after exposure to HPV Gardasil is ineffective) – approved for between the ages of 9 – 26 years old.
(b) Cervarix – 3-injections required over a period of six months before sexual activity begins (after exposure to HPV Cervarix is ineffective) – approved for between the ages of 10 – 25 years old.
Note: Both vaccines are unknown to benefit from boosters, together with an unknown degree of long-term effectiveness (due to the antibody titer changes [the measurement of how much antibody an organism has produced that recognizes a particular epitope]).
Other risk reducing factors worth mentioning are: diet (a healthy balanced nutritional diet essential for general health and well-being) and not smoking.