I saw it was common amongst women aged 60 years and above. I can't remember seeing a woman who was below 60 with cervical cancer unlike its counterpart ovarian cancer( the respecter of no one).
Some of them walked into the clinic stinking because it was way too advanced.
This is a sad experience
In this post, I will be writing about cervical cancer, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment.
By Lolaia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, wikimedia
The cervix is the lowermost part of the uterus. It connects the vagina to the uterus.
The body is made up of cells and these cells grow and later die.
This happens to be the natural programming of the body.
Now, take a second and ask yourself this question
What if you were continuously growing and not dying?
This is what happens with cancer cells, they just grow and eventually grow out of proportion.
The cells that are being multiplied are most times not normal.
When this happens in the cervix, the result is cervical cancer, not uterine cancer even if the cervix is part of the uterus
So how common is cervical cancer?
By CDC - CDC Public Domain, wikimedia
It was observed and reported that cervical cancer was the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide
It was also reported that 7.9% of cancer in women was attributed to cervical cancer.
While I was in the unit, out of the 8 patients I encountered, 3 of them had confirmed cervical cancer.
It is interesting to note that cervical cancer has been identified to be the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths.
So what causes cervical cancer?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus.
The human papillomavirus is a virus that has different strains.
However, not all strains cause cervical cancer
type 16 and 18 have been implicated in causing cervical cancer.
HPV like other viruses cannot be cured as viruses run their course and die
How does one get HPV?
HPV is transmitted sexually and yes cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease.
The thing there is, a lot of people get infected with HPV and the immune system gets rid of them.
When the immune system is not able to clear the infection, cervical cancer is what happens when the HPV strain is the cancerous one.
Who are the people at risk of having cervical cancer?
A lot of things have been attributed to pose one at risk of having cervical cancer
The most important risk factor for HPV infection is have unprotected sex.
Unprotected sex is the main risk factor as it is the pathway to other ones.
Engaging in sexual activities at an early age has been identified as a risk factor.
Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk as there is a high chance to be exposed to different strains
Family history, use of oral contraceptive pills for a long duration are also risk factors.
Tobacco smoking is a risk factor for cancer and cervical cancer is not exempted,
A study done in Nigeria identified unprotected sexual intercourse, numbers of sexual partners, family history, and smoking as the most significant risk factor for developing cervical cancer.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
In the early stages of the disease, it can be asymptomatic hence the need for a regular pap test which is covered in the next section.
When symptoms are present, they could be very discomforting and sometimes embarrassing.
= Postmenopausal bleeding: this is when bleeding occurs after menopause.
Post-coital bleeding: this is bleeding after sexual intercourse. This is a very common symptom in patients with cervical cancer.
Inter menstrual bleeding
Foul-smelling vaginal discharge and sometimes blood-tinged vaginal discharge.
When it gets complicated symptoms like constipation and difficulty in passing urine can occur leading to severe pains.
What is the way forward?
Since cervical cancer cannot be cured, prevention is the main focus.
Prevention starts with health education.
Women should be educated on the causes, risk factors, and prevention of cervical cancer.
Health education in form of health talks will be beneficial.
the next thing that can help reduce or prevent cervical cancer is screening.
A Pap smear is a relatively cheap way of checking if one is at risk of cervical cancer.
Just to say this, cervical cancer is one cancer that leaves its tracks when coming so identifying it before it escalates can be achieved hence the importance of screening.
Cervical intraepithelial neoplasms are a precancerous condition that can be treated.
This lesion can be identified by the pap smear.
So something interesting happened in the 1950s in the united states, the Pap smear was introduced and there was a drop in the incidence of cervical cancer.
It is worth noting that, before the introduction cervical cancer was the commonest gynecological cancer.
This is to emphasize the importance of screening.
Vaccination is another way of preventing cervical cancer. There are two types of vaccines that prevent HPV infection.
There is the vaccine that prevents cancer and that which prevents one from having cancer and warts,
How frequently should one get a pap smear?
It has been recommended that every woman aged 20-65 years should have a pap test every 3 years.
After age 65, it is most times not necessary when the previous screenings have been normal.
However, the decision to do or not to do a pap smear should be based on risk factors present.
Once a woman has had a hysterectomy, it is totally not necessary to do a pap smear.
Are there other screening tests?
Yes, it is possible to have an HPV DNA test.
It has been recommended that this should be done every 5 years from age 20 - 65 years.
Other ways to prevent cervical cancer
Delaying the onset of sexual intercourse has been noted to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.
Also, being faithful to one partner will also go a long way in prevention.
Since unsafe sex is a significant finding, practicing safe sexual practices is a great way of preventing cervical cancer.
When should you see a doctor?
You should see a doctor when you are experiencing any of the symptoms stated above.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment options for cervical cancer could either be chemotherapy, surgery, or radiotherapy.
In the early stages, surgery is the option.
When it gets advanced, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are sort after.
In summary, cervical cancer is a preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in women. Unusual forms of bleeding should necessitate seeing a doctor.
Unsafe sex, smoking, and positive family history put one at risk of getting cervical cancer.
A pap smear is one of the most reliable ways in identifying premalignant conditions
Thank you for reading.
- Medical news today
- U.S Preventive service task force
- Durowade KA, Osagbemi GK, Salaudeen AG, Musa OI, Akande TM, Babatunde OA, Raji HO, Okesina BS, Fowowe AA, Ibrahim OO, Kolawole OM. Prevalence and risk factors of cervical cancer among women in an urban community of Kwara State, north-central Nigeria. J prev med hyg. 2012 Dec 1;53(4):213-9.
I will be giving 5 Hive to 1 person
- Do a pap test before this post payout.
- The test must be a recent one
- Tag #hivehealth on Twitter
- Put the report as a comment on this post.
This post is to increase cervical cancer awareness amongst women on the blockchain.
If you want to sponsor this contest, you can send a message or send the donations and put a memo.