Did you know that more than 140,000 people with vaginas in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year? It’s not too late to make a resolution to care for your cervix! In fact, that’s exactly why January is designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus that connects it to your vagina. It looks like a donut with a tiny hole in the middle—that hole lets period blood out and sperm in. The cervix also stretches open (dilates) during birth. You may be able to touch it if you put your fingers deep in your vagina. It feels squishy but a little firm, kind of like the tip of your nose.
To keep your cervix healthy and prevent cervical cancer (according to Planned Parenthood), it’s important to:
A Pap Smear is a type of test where your doctor or nurse opens the walls of your vagina with a speculum to collect cells from your cervix for HPV screening and other cytology testing. In most cases, cervical cancer takes years to develop; having a regular Pap smear detects these changes long before they become cancerous.
Get the HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine—known by the brand name Gardasil 9—is a safe and effective way to protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, genital and throat cancers, and genital warts. Anybody of any gender, from ages 9–45, can get the HPV vaccine. But it’s most effective when you get it years before you start having sexual contact, which is why it’s a good idea if you’re a parent or guardian to consider getting your child vaccinated around ages 11–12.
Practice Safer Sex
Using condoms or internal condoms during vaginal and anal sex, and dental dams during oral sex, you can help lower your chances of getting and spreading HPV. Condoms and dental dams also help prevent other STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Those infections can cause cervicitis, which is inflammation of the cervix.
Remember to use a latex and silicone safe lubricant like Smooth Operator whenever you’re using condoms!