Cancer is caused as a result of the uncontrolled division/ multiplication of abnormal cells in the body, resulting to an excessive build-up of cells leading to the formation of a lump or in other cases a tumor. Cervical cancer affects the neck or entrance of the womb. When it comes to cervical cancer, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. This creates a lot of misunderstandings and confusion about what cervical cancer really is, the causes and symptoms, treatments etc. Cervical cancer is not a death sentence neither is it a curse. If detected early, with proper treatment and a recommended lifestyle, it is treatable.
Causes and risk factors that may increase the chances of developing cervical cancer are;
Cervical cancer is caused by the sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is the same virus that actually causes genital warts. With 100 different stains of HPV, only two cause cervical cancer, HPV-16 and HPV-18. HPV can also cause other cancers like; vulvar, vaginal, rectal, anal, penile and throat cancers. It is important to note that one can be infected with a strain of HPV that causes cancer and won’t get cervical cancer because your immune system does eliminate majority of infections caused by HPV.
HPV is very common and affects majority of men and women at some point in their lifetime.
Other factors can contribute to the development of cervical cancer like;
• Having multiple sexual partners
• Being sexually active at a young age
• Smoking -which increases your chances of developing cervical cancer when you are infected with HPV.
• Having a weak immune system generally makes one susceptible to infections like HPV which may or may not lead to cancer.
• Other sexually transmitted diseases can make one in the risk of contracting cervical cancer.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are;
If by any chance you experience the symptoms below, don’t be alarmed, just go to your doctor or gynaecologist for further examination and advice.
• Abnormal bleeding in between periods
• Excess menstrual bleeding
• Discomfort during sex
• Bleeding after sex
• Bleeding post menopause
• Pelvic pain
• Unusual vaginal discharge
• Pain during urination and bowel movement
• Needing to urinate more often
Cervical cancer like other cancers is treatable if caught early. The 3 main treatment which can work individually or sometimes combined for effectiveness are;
• Surgery- to remove much of the cancer in the cervix,
• Chemotherapy- which kills cancer cells in the body with the help of drugs.
• Radiotherapy- which kills the cancer cells using high energy X-ray beams.
The kind of treatment administered depends on different factors such as the stage of cancer, your overall state of health and your age among others.
It is said prevention is better than cure and I couldn’t agree more. Getting screened for cervical cancer by undergoing a pap smear is highly recommended. A pap smear is a test doctors use to diagnose cervical cancer by collecting a sample of cells from the cervix surface. It is recommended that women aged 21 to 29 get a pap smear once every three years and those aged 30 to 65 once every three years as well, and a high-risk HPV test every 5 years, or both every 5 years. This will really help to treat precancerous cells if noted before they turn into cancer.
Here are a number of other measures that can help reduce the chances of contracting HPV and cervical cancer;
• Getting vaccinated for HPV
• Abstaining from sex
• Practicing safe sex like having only one sexual partner and using condoms.
• Delaying first sexual intercourse -this will lower the risk of HPV infection.
• Living a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking and sticking to a healthy diet that will help increase your immunity.
Knowledge is power and it is upon us to look out for ourselves in order to prevent situations we can’t handle. Whether you were vaccinated for HPV or not, it is important for one to go for a pap smear in order to prevent cervical cancer from developing. Our lifestyle choices have to also change to accommodate a healthy living lifestyle to prevent health problems in the future