5 preventive strategies for young women and teens.
Alright ladies, it’s time to talk about a topic that can be avoided no more…a topic that I promise, is definitely not as scary as it may seem…cervical health and cancer prevention.
January is cervical cancer awareness month, and just because we can’t see our cervix, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there or that we should prioritize it any less than other organs in our bodies. Like neglect to flossing our teeth (another preventive health strategy), putting your gynecologic health off until tomorrow can have long-lasting and potentially negative outcomes.
Try these 5 preventive strategies for decreasing cervical cancer risk:
- Increase fruit and vegetable consumption. A whole food diet-rich in vitamin A, C, and E, folate, and beta-carotene can help prevent against developing cervical cancer. These nutrients can be found in brightly coloured orange, yellow, and red fruits and vegetables, and leafy greens.
- Stop smoking. Cigarettes contain cancer-causing agents, and deplete protective nutrients and antioxidants in the body making those who smoke more prone to developing cervical cancer. Smoking also weakens the immune system making the body less resilient to HPV.
- Avoid long-term use of oral contraceptive pill. Women and girls who take “the pill” for more than 10-years are at greatest risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk decreases progressively over time after stopping OCP use.
- Practice safe sex. Being sexually active at a young age (oral sex, genital-to-genital skin contact, or intercourse) greatly increases the risk of developing cervical cancer. Using a condom or other barrier methods can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HPV, as can decreasing the number of sexual partners that one has.
- Get regular, routine screening exams. New cervical cancer screening guidelines recommend testing with cytology every 3 years (rather than annually) for women ages 21-65. PAP tests allow for the early detection of changes in the cells of the cervix before symptoms appear. This can significantly decrease the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Don’t dance around the topic anymore, and share these helpful tips with your daughters, sisters, friends, and mothers. Take a proactive approach to cervical health today and ensure that healthy cervix is a happy cervix!
Note: Naturopathic doctors are trained and licensed to perform pelvic exams and PAP tests.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2012. New cervical cancer screening guidelines announced. Available at: www.acog.org/~/media/Districts/District%20II/PDFs/USPSTF_Cervical_Ca_Screening_Guidelines.pdf. Accessed on January 14, 2015.
Canadian Cancer Society. 2014. Risk factors for cervical cancer. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/cervical/risks/?region=on. Accessed on January 14, 2015.
Fonseca-Moutinho, JA. Smoking and cervical cancer. ISRN Obstet Gynecol. 2011. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140050/?report=reader. Accessed on January 14, 2015.