Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, as stated by the World Health Organization to account for 6.6% of cancers in women.
Cervical cancer has a very good prognosis if it is caught early. The best treatment in the case of cervical cancer is prevention.
Prevention, routine screening, early diagnosis, and appropriate treatment makes cervical cancer very manageable.
Being proactive with your health, in all aspects, is essential for optimal prevention. Keep on reading below to know everything about HPV testing, and how you can be proactive with your health.
What is HPV?
Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, is a common virus that affects humans, being claimed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the most sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
It affects millions of men and women every year. In fact, it is so common that the CDC estimates that HPV will be contracted by almost every sexually active adult in their lifetime.
HPV can be spread by skin to skin contact, most commonly through sexual activity. Although some people may not be aware of this, but it includes oral and anal sex.
How Does It Become Cervical Cancer?
Although not all HPV infections will cause cervical cancer, the rates of cervical cancer increase every year. Among the hundreds of HPV strains that have been identified, only a handful are likely to cause cervical cancer.
Like any other virus, your body should be able to fight off HPV when you come into contact with it. However, when your immune system is down for the count, that’s when HPV can proliferate and cause growth of abnormal cervical cells, cervical dysplasia, and eventually, growth of cancerous cells.
Pap Smears and HPV Tests
The Pap Smear is the recommended test that should be routinely performed by a trusted medical professional to screen for the potential of cervical cancer progression.
What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap smear collects a small sample of cervical cells using a small brush. Your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina in order to get an accurate sample from your cervix. This step may be a little uncomfortable, but should be relatively painless.
How Often Should I Get a Pap?
The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends sexually active women between the ages of 21 to 65 to receive routine Pap smears every 3 years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 can choose to prolong their screening exams to every 5 years, paired with an HPV test.
What is an HPV Test?
The HPV test is different from routine Pap screenings. Pap smears test your cervical cells to see if they are cancerous or potentially on their way to being cancerous. The HPV test cannot tell you the status of your cervical cells. It will test for the presence of HPV in your body, typically high risk HPV.
Testing for high risk HPV will test for specific strains of HPV, like HPV 16 and HPV 18 that are associated with high risk for cervical cancer progression.
The HPV test is usually recommended if your Pap repeatedly shows abnormal results, or if you are over the age of 30 and wish to spread out your routine Paps.
The result of the HPV test will usually help your doctor decide when to begin treatments that may be more invasive.
Natural, Proactive Steps
If you have abnormal cell growth detected on your Pap smear, your medical doctor is very unlikely to begin treatment. Most HPV infections are easily cleared by a strong, healthy immune system. Your immune system can be supported in a number of natural ways:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Drink green tea
- Exercise to sweat