Cervical Cancer

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Prevention

Cervical cancer may be prevented by avoiding risk factors such as multiple partners, unprotected sex, and smoking and by screening for and treating precancerous lesions. Early detection and treatment of precancerous areas found on the cervix may prevent them from developing into cancer.

Vaccines are available that can protect against infections caused by those strains of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines for use in girls and women ages 9 through 26 that protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers, and types 6 and 11, which cause about 90% of genital warts. The FDA has also approved one of the vaccines for boys and men ages 9 through 26. Boys and men are recommended to get the vaccine to protect against HPV and to help prevent spread of infections to their sexual partners, thus reducing their female partners' risk of developing cervical cancer.

The vaccines are given in three doses over a period of six months. They are considered safe but are most effective when given at younger ages and before initial exposure to the virus, so it is recommended that they be given before becoming sexually active. However, vaccines do not protect against all cervical cancers, so routine screening is recommended even if a woman has received the vaccine.

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