Cervical cancer is one of five main types of cancer that affect a woman’s reproductive organs. Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts.
Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Yet the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests). Read stories from some women who are survivors of cervical cancer.
There are two tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
- Pap smears – The Pap smear looks for precancers, cell changes, on the cervix that can be treated. Finding cell changes early and seeking treatment can prevent cervical cancer. Pap smears can also find cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective.
- HPV tests – These tests look for HPV, Human Papillomavirus. HPV is the virus that can cause precancerous cell changes and cervical cancer.
First Care Clinic offers Pap smears and HPV testing in Madison, Wisconsin, free of charge.
- If you are age 21 or older, you should start getting regular Pap smears.
- If you are age 30 or older, or if you’ve had unclear Pap test results, the HPV test can be used to screen for cervical cancer along with the Pap test.
- There may not be any symptoms early on, which is why testing is so important.
- Later on, cervical cancer may cause bleeding. It could also cause vaginal discharge that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. Other things can also cause these symptoms so the only way to know is to get tested.
- Have regular Pap smears
- Get the HPV vaccine
- Don’t smoke
- Limit your number of sexual partners
- Use condoms during sex