Cervical Cancer occurs in the cervix of the female reproductive system; whereby there has been abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade into other healthy cervical tissues.
Cervical cancer doesn’t normally manifest itself in early stages so women any different. It’s advanced stages are accompanied by:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (for example between periods, after sex or during gynecological exam)
- Vaginal discomfort and foul-smelling discharge
- Pain during urination and sexual intercourse
- Lack of appetite, weakness and weight loss
- Pain at pelvic area, back and legs
Factors Predisposing Cervical cancer
- Human Pappiloma virus infection (most important)
- Factors increasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections-
- Coitus before 18 years of age
- Multiple sex partners
- Poor personal hygiene
- Poor socioeconomic status
- Smoking (predisposes to squamous cell CA).
- Immunosuppressed individuals
- Women on OCPQ or progesterone therapy for long time, are predisposed to
- adenocarcinoma of endocervix
- In utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).
The simplest most effective way of to detect cervical cancer is to visit the gynaecologist regularly for cervical screening that includes the Pap test. Pap smear (Exfoliative Cytology).
Time for initiating Pap smear: 21 years of age regardless of the age of first sexual intercourse.
Revised Guideline for Pap smear: Cervical Cancer Screening
Age to begin Pap smear = 21 years
Women aged 21-29 years should have a pap test every 3 years (earlier it was done annually)
Women aged 30-65 years should have a pap test and HPV testing every 5 years.
Women, who have a history of cervical cancer, are infected with HIV or have been exposed to DES should have annual screening done. In HIV positive females, if three consecutive tests are normal, they can have testing once in every 3 years instead of annual.
Women aged 30-65 years should have a pap test and HPV testing every 5 years. It is acceptable to have a pap test alone every 3 years.
Human papilloma virus vaccines
These are vaccines that prevent infection by certain types of human papillomavirus. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that the vaccine be given routinely to girls at age 11 to 12 years old, although doctors may choose to vaccinate girls as young as 9. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for women age 13 to 26 who did not receive the vaccine at an earlier age. However, if a girl or woman is already infected with HPV, the vaccine will not prevent that strain of HPV from causing disease. It will protect against new infections with other strains of HPV included in the vaccine.
Remember, yearly screening can reduce the risk of cancer of the cervix by 91%. A single Pap smear test performed during lifetime reduces the risk of cervical cancer by 50%
Don’t forget, early detection saves lives..