Cervical Cancer Awareness
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix gro w out of control. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it is found early. It is usually found at a very early stage through a Pap test(taking some of the cells of the cervix and examining them in the lab.
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. It is a common cause of morbidity and mortality. 85 percent of women with the disease are in the developing countries.
In ghana about 3000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually. And it is the leading cause of female cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer in women aged 15-44years. In Komfo Anokye it is the second leading female cancer.
What causes cervical cancer?
About 95 percent of cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. This HPV is sexually transmitted. There are many types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.
Who is at risk ?
Early age at initiation of sex
Multiple sexual partners
Partner with multiple sexual partners
Increase number of birth
Low socioeconomic status
What are the symptoms?
At early stages where there are only abnormal cervical cell changes rarely does it cause symptoms. Symptoms start showing if those cell changes grow into cervical cancer. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause.
Pain in the lower belly or pelvis.
Pain during sex.
Offensive Vaginal discharge
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
As part of your regular pelvic exam, you should have a Pap test. During a Pap test, the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix to look for cell changes. If a Pap test shows abnormal cell changes, your doctor may do other tests to look for precancerous or cancer cells on your cervix.
How is it treated?
The treatment for cervical cancer depends on how the disease has spread and it includes the following modalities:
Surgery, such as a hysterectomy( removal of the womb and the cervix) and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Depending on how much the cancer has grown, you may have one or more treatments. And you may have a combination of treatments. If you have a hysterectomy, you will not be able to have children. But a hysterectomy is not always needed, especially when cancer is found very early.
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
The Pap test is the best way to find cervical cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests almost always show these cell changes before they turn into cancer. It is important to follow up with your doctor after any abnormal Pap test result so you can treat abnormal cell changes. This may help prevent cervical cancer.
If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV vaccine, which protects against two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
The virus that causes cervical cancer is spread through sexual contact. The best way to avoid getting a sexually transmitted infection is to not have sex. If you do have sex, practice safer sex by being faithful and limiting the number of sex partners you have.
By Bro Dr Adu Appiah-Kubi, DGK of Council 116.