• Cervical Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know!


    Current estimates indicate that every year 14089 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 8240 die from the disease.- ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer.

    When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (the birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus.

    All women are at risk for cervical cancer. The peak time for acquiring infection for both women and men is shortly after becoming sexually active. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.

    Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in Nigeria and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.

    What Raises A Woman’s Chance Of Getting Cervical Cancer?

    Any woman who has ever had sex is at risk for HPV. However, you are more likely to get HPV if you started having sex at an early age, or if you or your partner have had sex with several others.

    The Center For Disease Control(CDC) states that HPV is a common virus that infects teens and adults. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year”. Penetrative sex is not required for transmission. Skin-to-skin genital contact is a well-recognized mode of transmission.

    Usually HPV will go away on its own, but if it does not, it may cause cervical cancer over time. In addition to having HPV, these things also can increase your risk of cervical cancer: • Smoking. • H aving HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems. Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).

    What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer?

    Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. It takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. It can take only 5 to 10 years in women with weakened immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as irregular, intermenstrual (between periods) or abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse; back, leg or pelvic pain; fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite; vaginal discomfort or odourous discharge; and a single swollen leg. More severe symptoms may arise at advanced stages. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor.

    Screening For Cervical Cancer

    *Every Woman Aged 30 To 65yrs Should Get Screened For Cancer Of The Cervix

    Screening detects cancer at an early stage and treatment has a high potential for cure.

    Women who are sexually active should be screened for abnormal cervical cells and pre-cancerous lesions, starting from 30 years of age. Cervical cancer screening is testing for pre-cancer and cancer among women who have no symptoms and may feel perfectly healthy. When screening detects pre-cancerous lesions, these can easily be treated and cancer avoided.

    If the results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then say that you can wait up to five years for your next screening. It is important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore.

    HPV Vaccination: Why Is It Needed?

    The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the “HPV Vaccines are safe and very effective in preventing infection against the Cervical Cancer causing virus (HPV 16 and 18)”

    Girls/women 15 years of age and older, as well as those who are immuno-compromised, e.g., living with HIV, require 3 doses. .

    The vaccines work best if administered prior to exposure to HPV. Therefore, it is preferable to administer them before first sexual activity.

    HPV vaccination does not replace cervical cancer screening.

    Why Do Pre-Teen Girls Need To Be Vaccinated

    The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that Pre-teen girls 9–13 years of age be vaccinated because the vaccine is highly immunogenic at this age and girls are typically not yet exposed to the virus.(not sexually active)

    Getting vaccinated on time protects preteens long before ever being exposed to the virus.

    If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to his/her doctor about getting it as soon as possible.

    What do I do if I have cervical cancer?

    Women who are found to have abnormalities on screening need follow-up, diagnosis and treatment, in order to prevent the development of cancer or to treat cancer at an early stage.

    Detecting cancer early can effectively reduce the mortality associated with cancer.


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    Credit: WHO/CDC/ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer/


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