Cancer of the cervix: Taking a closer look

Are you at risk? Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women in Zimbabwe.

It is also the most common cause of cancer deaths for women in the world, especially where there is no cervical cancer screening. However, it is the easiest gynaecological cancer to prevent through regular screening and tests.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is the opening of the vagina into the uterus

 What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a slow developing cancer that starts in the interior lining of the cervix. Almost all cases begin with changes caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.

Over time, the changes caused by HPV build up and a pre-cancerous condition called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) develops.

CIN can progress to cervical cancer, but this is not always the case.

Who can get cervical cancer?

Any sexually active woman.

Risk factors for cervical cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Infection by certain HPV is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer.

Immunosuppression — a weakened immune system. The virus that causes Aids damages a woman’s immune system and puts them at higher risk for HPV infections.

Multiple sexual partners

First sexual encounter at an early age, (below 17 years of age)

Smoking

Reproductive history — having a family history of cervical cancer.

Long-term use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)

Dietary factors — being overweight

Signs and Symptoms

Early stages:

Often NO symptoms

Vaginal discharge

After sex bleeding

Abnormal periods

Post-menopausal bleeding

Late stages:

Pelvic or lower back pain.

Bowel or bladder fistula

Prevention of cervical cancer

A well-proven way to prevent cervical cancer is to have testing (screening) to find pre-cancers before they can turn into invasive cancer.

The Pap test (Pap smear, LBC Test) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test are used for this:

Prevention. Prevention. Prevention

Getting an HPV vaccine. About 5 percent to 10 percent of cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

Testing for HPV

Not smoking

Condom use

Very Important!

All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test.

Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65.

Women who are at high risk of cervical cancer because of a suppressed immune system (for example from HIV infection should be screened more regularly.

Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines.

Should you present with any of the above- mentioned symptoms:

Contact: Oncocare on 0776 222 080 or 0242-776009-10

 

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