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How to Prevent Cervical Cancer
May 5th, 2003. 10 years ago. One of my biggest nightmares came true, when my grandfather (who was a father to me, since he and my grandmother acted as my parents) died. He didn't feel well for a while and went to the doctor. They decided to perform surgery, since he had an intestinal occlusion. Few hours later we heard he had colon cancer that has spread and they had to remove a lot of his colon. He didn't make it though, died in the ICU later that night.
My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and I fear one day I'll have to deal with this horrible disease. At least when it comes to Cervical Cancer there are some ways I can prevent it from happening.
1. Few, steady sex partners
I grew up in a time when you weren't supposed to have too many sexual partners. I had 3 men in my life (my high-school boyfriend for 3 years and a half, my ex - 2 years and a half, and my current fiancee - 11 years to this date).
Today's society is more geared towards casual sex and short term relationships. These multiple sex partners each come with their own 'baggage' and you risk a lot. HPV can be contracted pretty easily (and you won't even know who was the one who gave you the 'gift') so use condoms and try to keep the sexual encounters to a minimum. Get a steady partner and you'll be better from any point of view.
2. Get your annual checkups with Pap Smear
Going to the gynecologist is something most women dread. I, for example, am a very private person, so having to disrobe in front of a stranger is almost a nightmare. But it do it and never had to regret it.
Find a nice doctor (there are many wonderful OBGYNs) and schedule annual checkups. You'll have your Pap smear and this can show if there is anything abnormal happening on your cervix.
The problem with this zone in your body is that it doesn't have too many nerves there, so you can develop some serious problems and not feel any pain. We all use pain as a health indicator, in this case it can really misinform us.
3. Anything showing up? Take the next step
I had my Pap smear few months ago after 3 years of not seeing my doctor (I know, it's not OK. We did travel a lot and I just thought I'm healthy, right?). I had a 'lesion' on my cervix and got a really serious scare. You already know about our medical history so you can imagine I was horrified to hear about having something 'abnormal' growing on my cervix.
I read about Cervical Dysplasia (which is what I had) and decided to do whatever was needed to remove anything 'abnormal' from there. I could have chosen medication or just wait for a while, but all I could think of was how to make sure whatever was there would be removed.
My doctor scheduled a procedure that cauterized the 'troubled' areas of my cervix. I slept throughout the entire procedure and healed wonderfully soon after. The entire operation took 2 hours tops (with me falling asleep, waking up and chatting with my doctor for half an hour afterward), wasn't painful at all and solved my problems.
Few days ago I had my 2 month checkup (so that she can see how it all healed and if my Pap smear would show any more abnormal results) and it was all nice and clean. Phew, that was close!
There was nothing we could do about my grandfather. Even my father lost his best friend to cancer few years ago. He was only 48 and a 'horse' of a man. I don't think he had a sick day in his life ... until ..
When it comes to Cervical Cancer though there is something we can do to prevent it. Or at least catch it when it's not too late. There are many women who have survived it, but there are still women who die from it.
There's the vaccine that helps prevent HPV from causing 'ruckus' in our bodies, but a lot of women and girls are still not convinced to try it. I don't know if I would have my daughter take the vaccine (I don't have kids yet, so we're just assuming), but I would clearly advise her to have a healthy sex life and see her Gynecologist as often as needed to make sure she doesn't have to deal with any stress or .. worse.
I know it's a very personal topic and many women are not willing to discuss it openly, but I do believe we need to make sure we share this truth. Cervical Cancer can be prevented and we can enjoy our lives as women too. I'm determined to be even more cautious in the future (especially since we'll soon start trying to conceive) and very grateful for having a wonderful doctor who's by my side at all times.
Please feel free to share your ideas and experiences. Thank you for taking the time to read this.