by Gabriel Humffrey We often hear about cervical cancer and we get a Pap smear regularly. Do you really know why you're getting it and what your cervix is?
The cervix is the lower portion of your uterus.
Place your finger into your vagina and feel towards the back. Your cervix should feel firm and round, with a small dimple in the middle.
Does it seem "taboo" to go venturing this far exploring your body? Knowing what your body feels like helps you discover changes that occur.
A healthy cervix is a happy cervix. Here's how to keep yours absolutely in the pink.
Prevention consists of eliminating or reducing harmful factors so natural body defences are able to work. A number of factors affect your overall health as well as your cervix, including:
Life cycle: Cervical cells are most vulnerable to abnormal cell growth at puberty, during a first pregnancy and a few weeks following the birth of a child. Usually the junction where the skin from the vagina joins the skin from the uterus is further up toward the uterus and the cells are protected. At these vulnerable times the junction extends further out into the vagina so the cells are more susceptible to changes and carcinogens.
Strong immune system: A healthy immune system helps clear harmful bacteria and virus naturally from your bodies. Keep yours in tip-top by taking care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep. Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals. Eat well.
Colorful diet: Research has found that there's a connection between folic acid a B vitamin and a reduction in cervical cancer. This vitamin can be found in green and yellow vegetables, juices, citrus fruits, liver, and yeasts. Antioxidants, packed in colorful fruits and vegetables, help your body neutralize the effect of harmful chemicals.
Stress: Many of us lead lives loaded with daily stress -- some days worse than others. Lots of women receive abnormal Pap results after major negative life events. Researchers think that how well we cope with stressful events is related to whether or not we get abnormal Pap results.
Here are some ideas for helping you deal with stress:
Dr. David Edelberg, M.D., the author of "The Triple Whammy Cure," recommends teaching yourself not to worry, walking in the sunlight, massage, meditation, t'ai chi, acupressure, yoga, acupuncture, and health spas. His for stress-relief prescription focuses on you taking time every day to melt away your stress in some definitely fun and interesting ways.
Smoking and second hand smoke: Do you smoke? Try to stop. Smoking is linked with the development of cervical cancer. Nicotine and other by-products of smoking concentrate in the cervical mucus of smokers. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to develop abnormal changes or cancerous changes in the cervix.
Safe sex: Practicing safe sex not only prevents unwanted pregnancy, it also helps prevents sexually transmitted infections that can make the cervix unhealthy. A female condom provides better coverage than a regular condom because it protects both the inside of the vagina and the vulva from sexually transmitted infections like linked with cervical cancer. Male condoms also provide protection for your cervix. For additional protection cover sex toys and hands need covering with condoms.
Schedule regular Pap tests. This screening test looks for abnormal cervical changes that indicate cancer or changes that could one day lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer usually takes years to develop so having a regular Pap smear detects these changes long before they become cancerous.
Symptoms that might indicate a cervical problem include:
- Unexpected bleeding
- Painful intercourse
- Unusual odd-smelling discharge, or an increase in discharge (from the norm)
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Pelvic pain
Tell your doctor about these right away.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.