WHAT IT IS?
It’s the kind of cancer that arises from the cervix (entrance into the womb). If you still remember our discusion on cancers in general, they do not have an identifiable cause but factors that put people at risk.
But not this one, almost all cases of cervical cancer is associated with infection by human papilloma virus (HPV). What is more interesting is that there’s a vaccine for the virus.
NB: It’s “usually” seen in those who are 50yrs and above and commoner in developing nations like Nigeria
THE RISK FACTORS:
– Early age of sexual debut(the 1st sex)
– Multiple sexual partners
– Sexual intercourse with a male with multiple sexual partners
– Early age at first birth
– Multiple birth (5 or more)
– Some diseases that reduces the ability of the body to defend itsef against infection e.g Diabetes mellitus, HIV/AIDS.
WHY CERVICAL CANCER IS DIFFERENT
It has a known “pre-cancer” stage known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
This is the latent stage cervical cancer passes through before it becomes full blown. This latent stage can be on for several years say 10-15 years undetected, some will be accidentally detected while your doctor is examining you for other things. Some may resolve at this “pre-cancer” stage while some eventually proceed to cervical cancer.
HOW DO U KNOW YOU HAVE CERVICAL CANCER?
At the early stage, the person is usually without symptoms. Later on there can be;
– Vagina bleeding following intercourse
– Bleeding between menstrual periods
– Abnormal vaginal bleeding
– Vaginal discharge which may be foul smelling
– Abdominal distension/pain
– Weight loss to mention but a few.
SCREENING TEST/ PAP SMEAR
This is a simple test done to confirm the cancer or otherwise the “pre-cancer” stage.
Who is eligible?
Any woman who is Sexually active or 21yrs and above (active or not).
How often do you take the test?
It’s done periodically. Three yearly, though it can be less or more frequent depending on the result.
Where do you take the test?
The test is available in most tertiary hospitals( like teaching hispitals).
“You will go home immediately after the test and it comes with very little discomfort.”
At this point it’s pertinent we talk about PREVENTION, like the popular saying it’s better than cure.
– Try as much as possible to avoid the earlier mentioned risk factors
– Vaccination; It’s available in Nigeria. Ask your Gynaecologist for more information on how to get it.
TREATING THE PRE-CANCER STAGE
When confirmed, the pre-cancer stage needs to be taken care of to halt it’s progression to a full blown cancer. The options of treatment are surgical ( don’t be scared they are not scary and the woman can still give birth and have sexual intercourse normally).
These surgeries have also been found to be very effective in most cases.
TREATMENT OF THE CANCER
This is dependent on the stage i.e how advanced the cancer is. The options are
– Chemotherapy or combination of them.
“People have survived the cancer especially those that were detected early. So early presentation is key. Go to the nearest hospital and do the pap smear test.”
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