As we welcome September, we are reminded that it's Cervical
Awareness Month—a time dedicated to shining a light on a
significant health concern that affects women worldwide:
cervical cancer. In this month's newsletter, we aim to raise
awareness about cervical cancer and its prevention.
Knowledge is a powerful tool in safeguarding your well-being,
so let's delve into what you need to know:
Understanding Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer occurs when the cells of the cervix undergo
abnormal changes, leading to the appearance of abnormal
cells in the cervical tissue. The cervix is the vital link between
the womb and the female genital organs. This type of cancer
typically progresses slowly over time and ranks as the fourth
most common cancer in women worldwide.
The Role of HPV
An astonishing 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to human papillomaviruses (HPV), a common viral infection transmitted through sexual contact. While most HPV infections resolve without treatment and show no symptoms, persistent infection can lead to cervical cancer. Notably, HPV16 and HPV18 are responsible for most HPV-related cancers, and anyone who has engaged in sexual contact is at risk of HPV infection. Condoms may not offer complete protection as HPV transmission occurs through skin-to-skin contact.
Who's at Increased Risk?
Several factors increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, including:
Persistent HPV infection
Immunosuppression, especially among
individuals with HIV/AIDS
Family history of cervical cancer
Early sexual debut (before 18 years of age)
Multiple sexual partners or a high-risk partner
Prolonged use of oral contraceptives
Giving birth to many children
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Early-stage cervical cancer often presents no symptoms, making detection challenging. Symptoms typically manifest after the cancer has progressed. Early-stage symptoms may include:
1. Vaginal bleeding after sex
2. Vaginal bleeding after menopause
3. Vaginal bleeding between periods or unusually
heavy or prolonged periods
4. Vaginal discharge with a strong odor or containing blood 5. Pelvic pain or discomfort during sex
6. Advanced cervical cancer symptoms, where the cancer
has spread beyond the cervix, may include the above
symptoms along with:
7. Pain or difficulty passing stool, or bleeding from the
rectum during bowel movements
8. Pain or difficulty urinating, or blood in the urine 9. Dull backache
10. Swelling in the legs
11. Abdominal pain
Prevention is Key
The good news is that cervical cancer is highly preventable and curable when detected early. You can significantly reduce your risk by:
HPV Vaccination: Consider HPV vaccination, most effec tive when administered before your first sexual encounter.
Routine Cervical Cancer Screening: Ensure you undergo a pap smear at least once every three years.
Prompt Treatment: If an abnormality is detected during screening, follow up with recommended treatment
Empower yourself with knowledge and take proactive steps to protect your health. Remember, early detection can save lives.
Stay informed, stay healthy, and let's work together to raise awareness about cervical cancer this September.