"The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you'll go.

Dr. Seuss,  I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Cervical Cancer Awareness

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers and a leading cause of death in women in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Africa Health, Human & Social Development Information Service: 17 out of the 20 countries with the highest incidence of cervical cancer are in African countries.

Malawi has the highest incidence of cervical cancer on the African continent.

Nigeria is the 5th globally of mortality from cervical cancer and 1st on the African continent.

Top ten countries with the highest mortality in Africa are: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Democratic Rep. of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Madagascar.

How do you get cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer most often occurs secondary to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner and may not be diagnosed until years after the initial infection. As a matter of fact many people infected with HPV don’t even know it. It can go away on its own, but when HPV lingers, it can start changes in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Why some women with HPV get cervical cancer while others do not isn’t completely known. In addition to the fact that not all HPV strains lead to cervical cancer, lifestyle and other environment factors are considered potential risk factors.

Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • Vaginal bleeding that occurs following intercourse, in between menstrual periods, or after menopause.
  • Vaginal discharge that can be watery or bloody; and may have foul odor.
  • Pain in the pelvic area and/or pain during intercourse.

Prevention of cervical cancer.

Awareness goes a long way in preventing, diagnosing and treating cervical cancer. The risk of contracting HPV is significantly reduced by practicing safe sex and limiting the number of sex partners. Delaying intercourse and vaccinating girls, boys and young women against HPV are all measures that can be taken to help prevent cervical cancer. Having regular Pap smears is crucial for women to screen for cervical cancer. Pap smears detect early changes in the cells of the cervix that could become cancerous. If changes are detected, closer monitoring and further testing is performed. Your doctor will determine whether you need the Pap test every year or every three years. An HPV test is performed to see if the cells of the cervix have been infected with the human papilloma virus. The HPV test is not the same a Pap smear. You can get the HPV test at the same time you get a Pap test.

How do you treat cervical cancer? The stage of cervical cancer is the most important factor in choosing treatment. Other factors include the type of cervical cancer, age and overall health.

Cervical Cancer is treated in a multidisciplinary manner and usually involves a gynecologic surgeon, an oncologist and a radiation oncologist.  An individualized treatment plan is recommended on a case by case basis. In addition to surgery, chemotherapy, (uses medications to shrink or kill cancerous cells) and radiation therapy (uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells) can also be used. Taking prevention precautions greatly reduces your risk of getting cervical cancer. Having regular Pap and HPV screenings, making lifestyle changes such as limiting sex partners, and quitting smoking can greatly reduce your risks for getting cervical cancer. If you have symptoms suspicious for cervical cancer, seek medical advice and treatment early. Early detection is key for a good outcome.

You can refer to this table to see the recommended screening guidelines: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/pdf/guidelines.pdf