The Pap test is the most effective screening test to prevent the development of cervical cancer. Pap tests done at regular intervals almost always detect cervical cell changes before the changes become cancerous. Regular screening for and treatment of cervical cell abnormalities can prevent the abnormal cell changes from developing into cancer.
The recommended Pap test schedule is based on your age and on things that increase your risk. For most women, it is best to have a Pap test every 1 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about when to have your first Pap test and how often to have this test.
Women who smoke are at higher risk for developing cervical cell changes that cause an abnormal Pap test. The reason for this is not fully understood. Quitting smoking may decrease this risk. Not smoking has many other health benefits. For example, nonsmokers have a lower risk of other cancers and heart disease. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Reduce your risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Talk with your partner about STIs beforebeginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for anSTI. Remember that it is quite possible to be infected with an STI withoutknowing it. Some STIs, such asHIV, can take up to 6 months before they are detectedin the blood. Consider HIV testing if you or your partner are at risk forHIV.
Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
Avoid all intimate sexual contact with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an STI.
Usemale orfemale condoms to reduce the risk of getting an STI.Using male condoms when you have sex has been shown to reduce your risk ofgetting HPV.3 Female condoms may help also, althoughthere has been less study of this type of protection.
Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only way tocompletely prevent any exposure to STIs.
Your risk for an STI increases if you have several sex partners at the same time or if your sex partner has more than one partner.
If you are age 26 or younger, get the HPV shot. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil(What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts. Three shots are given over 6 months. The series of shots is recommended for girls age 11 or 12 and can be given to females ages 9 to 26. You can get either vaccine. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
For more information on getting your daughter vaccinated, see:
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