Dear Dr. Kate,
I have been on the Pill since the age of 18, and I am now 23. I requested the pill due to the fact I have extremely painful and long periods.
The pill has been a wonder, but now I am concerned after reading that being on the pill for 5 or more years increases your risk of cervical cancer.
I have only ever had 3 sexual partners, all of whom I used condoms with, and I am not in a relationship at present. I had a smear test done last year and everything was clear but am just a bit worried. I really don't want to come off the pill as I had 6 years of torture before being prescribed it. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Dear Pill Lover,
The relationship between cervical cancer and the birth control pill is a tricky one. Some research has suggested that being on the pill makes it harder to clear the HPV virus if you become infected with it. And we know that HPV is the real culprit in cervical cancer. On the other hand, other studies have found NO relationship between being on the pill and developing serious pap smear abnormalities or cancer. So the truth isn't completely known yet. (Find out how you can tell if you have HPV.)
What we DO know is that if you're screened regularly (pap smears every 2-3 years for most women), we'll pick up any abnormalities in your cervix in PLENTY of time to treat you before it turns into cancer. So if your paps have always been normal, and you always use condoms (which decreases your risk of HPV), I would stay on the pill. I wouldn't trade good birth control, and one that makes your quality of life so much better, for a theoretical risk.
Have any of you worried about your pap smears while on the pill?
[photo credit: Getty Images]
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