Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
Did you know January, is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month? I bet you didn’t know and you are not supposed to feel bad because education or advocacy on the disease has not been extended as it ought to be hence killing women silently with the majority of the patients attributing it to spirituality. Hmm, sad isn’t it?
Breast cancer has been the centre of attraction for the past couple of years and rightly so; as this endemic was silently laying its cruel hands-on many women. Through constant, consistent and informative advocacy, women, especially in Africa know better now than to be superstitious about the disease.
Cervical cancer, like breast cancer, is a gender-based ailment that affects women only.
To help address this societal problem snatching beautiful lives out of women (Mothers, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers, female cousins and any female character) whose quota helps in national development take a read with me on this educative all about cervical cancer piece.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), sexually transmitted infections, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.
When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small percentage of people, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells.
You can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by having screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection.
Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells in the cervix develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cells’ DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do.
Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. The mutations tell the cells to grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumour). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can break off from a tumour to spread (metastasize) elsewhere in the body.
It isn’t clear what causes cervical cancer, but it’s certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most people with the virus never develop cancer. This means other factors – such as your environment or your lifestyle choices also determine whether you will develop cervical cancer.
TYPES OF CERVICAL CANCER
The type of cervical cancer that you have helps determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are:
Squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the thin flat cells (squamous cells) lining the outer part of the cervix, which projects into the vagina. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
Adenocarcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
Sometimes, both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Very rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.
Cervical cancer, like many known cancers, has no specific causative factors, regardless, there are some risk factors which include but are not limited to:
Multiple Sexual Partners: The greater your number of sexual partners and the greater your partner’s number of sexual partners the greater your risk of acquiring HPV.
Early Sexual Activity: Having sex at an early age increases your HPV.
Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Having other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS increases your risk of HPV.
A Weakened Immune System: You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and conditions have HPV.
Smoking: Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
Exposure to Miscarriage Prevention Drug: If your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in the 1950s, you may have an increased risk of a certain type of cervical cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.
However, signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include Vagina bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause, watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour and pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that concern you.
To reduce your risk of cervical cancer:
Ask Your Doctor About The HPV Vaccine. Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers. Ask your doctor whether an HPV vaccine is appropriate for you.
Have Routine Pap Tests. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Most medical organizations suggest beginning routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeating them every few years.
Practice Safe Sex Reduce your risk of cervical cancer by taking measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as using a condom every time you have sex and limiting the number of sexual partners you have.
Don’t Smoke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start if and if you’re already sinking deep in smoking, talk to your doctor about rehabilitation to help you quit.
Woman, we need you alive. You are a very important part of this puzzle called life. Cervical cancer may not have any known treatment, but we sure can lower our risks of getting this ailment.
This January, visit your nearest health centre and do a checkup. Don’t be scared, it won’t hurt to know your status, but it certainly will hurt if you contract cervical cancer.