January 21, 2019
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Karim ElSahwi, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cancer Care, Exercise / Fitness.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month – and it serves as an annual reminder for women about the disease and how they can protect themselves against it. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet every year over 11,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Many times women are not made aware of how, exactly, they can prevent it.
Cervical cancer is most commonly caused by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The HPV infection has the power to turn normal cells in the cervix into cancerous ones. HPV is easily spread through unprotected sexual activity. That’s why in the medical field we recommend that women are vaccinated against HPV – which we’ll discuss in further detail below.
As mentioned, cervical cancer is preventable, but this is only true if you remain proactive. Here are some of the key prevention tips I recommend to my patients:
- Get vaccinated: Since HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer, getting vaccinated against it is a main way to help prevent the disease. It’s recommended that women and men (both of whom can have HPV) get the HPV vaccination before their teenage years. Specifically, it is common to administer the HPV vaccination to adolescents between the ages of 11 and 12. Previously, the vaccine was only intended for people up to the age of 26, but recently the shot was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for women and men ages 27-45 as well. If you’re a woman who has never been vaccinated against HPV and are 45 years old or younger, you should speak to your doctor about getting the vaccine in order to help prevent cervical cancer.
- Use condoms: As mentioned, HPV is contracted through unprotected sex, so it’s especially important to use protection when having sex, especially if you have not been vaccinated against HPV.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes: Studies have shown that smokers have an increased rate of developing cervical cancer when compared to their non-smoking counterparts. What’s more, this risk increases when the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases.
- Maintain a healthy diet & exercise routine: Studies have also shown a connection between a diet that’s low in fruit and vegetable consumption and an increased likelihood of getting cervical cancer. Keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight can also prove to decrease your chances of developing cervical cancer.
- Don’t skip your regular screenings: Women 21 and older should visit their gynecologist annually to get the appropriate exams and screenings. Pelvic exams should be done annually and Pap tests should be done once every three years or more, depending on your doctor’s recommendation.
Dr. ElSahwi specializes in gynecologic oncology and practices at various locations in Monmouth County, NJ. Dr. ElSahwi is part of the Hackensack Meridian Medical Group. To make an appointment with Dr. ElSahwi, call 732-897-7944.
To learn more online about Hackensack Meridian Health’s cancer care services, visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/learnmore.
- American Cancer Society
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (Health.gov)
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.