You can treat early cervical cell changes (dysplasia), which can reduce your risk for cervical cancer. You can also reduce your risk for abnormal cell changes.
Have regular Pap test screening
The recommended Pap test schedule is based on your age and things that increase your risk. Talk to your doctor about how often to have this test.
For information about quitting, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Get the HPV vaccine
If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV shot. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?), Gardasil(What is a PDF document?), and Gardasil 9(What is a PDF document?) protect against the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. It is recommended for children age 11 or 12, but can be given as early as age 9. For girls who have not already gotten the vaccine, it is recommended up to age 26. For boys who have not already gotten the shot, the vaccine is recommended up to age 21. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
Reduce your risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Preventing an STI, including HPV, is easier than treating an infection after it occurs. HPV infection usually doesn't cause symptoms, so you or your partner may not know that you are infected.
To reduce your risk:
- Talk with your partner about STIs before beginning a sexual relationship. Find out if he or she is at risk for an STI. Remember that it's possible to be infected with an STI without knowing it. Some STIs, such as HIV, can take up to 6 months before they are detected in the blood.
- 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.
- The fewer sex partners you have in your lifetime, the better it is for your health. Your risk for an STI increases if you have several sex partners or if your sex partner has more than one partner.
- Use male or female condoms to reduce the risk of getting an STI. Using male condoms when you have sex has been shown to reduce your risk of getting HPV.3 Female condoms may help also, although there has been less study of this type of protection.
Not having sexual contact is the only certain way to prevent exposure to STIs. Sexually transmitted infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV) can be spread to or from the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat during sexual activities.