Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes almost all cervical cancers. HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus. More than 30 types of HPV can infect the cervix, and about half of them cause cervical cancer. Some HPV types can cause genital warts. HPV is so common that most people get it at some point in their lives with no symptoms. Fortunately, there is a human papillomavirus (HPV) test that can detect HPV infection, and a vaccine is available to protect against the HPV strains that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
You can lower your risk of cervical cancer by lowering your risk of HPV infection by:
- Avoiding sexual activity: HPV infection of the cervix is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Avoiding sexual activity decreases your risk of HPV.
- Using barrier protection or spermicidal gels: Some methods used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) decrease your risk of HPV infection. The use of barrier methods of birth control, such as a condom or spermicide, helps protect against HPV infection.
- Getting vaccinated: The HPV vaccine can prevent infection by the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccine protects against infection for six to eight years. It is unknown if protection lasts.
Two vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and females 13 - 26 years of age who did not get any or all of their shots when they were younger. The vaccines are also approved for girls as young as nine years of age.
Vaccinated or not, it is always important, to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.
Other Risks of Cervical Cancer
Other conditions associated with cervical cancer, include the following:
- You have given birth to three or more children
- You have HIV/AIDS or another condition that makes it hard for your body to resist illness
- You smoke
- You use birth control pills for five or more years
- Secondhand smoke, although the risk is lower than active smoking