A growing number of women across the globe are developing or are at risk of developing cervical cancer. This type of cancer is reportedly the fourth most common cancer among women across the globe. Cervical cancer occurs due to an infection by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a common sexually transmitted disease. However, the risk of this form of cancer can be reduced with the right screening, like Pap smear, and by taking preventative measures.
“Almost all fatal cases of cervical cancer could be avoided, as long as women are screened regularly and preventative treatment is started early in the diagnosis,” Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team (an affordable maternity programme available in Pretoria, Durban, Polokwane and Johannesburg), told a news portal.
One of the most effective ways to screen for cervical cancer is by undergoing a pap smear. A nurse or doctor takes a sample of the cervical lining to know if there are any abnormal cells. The test should be taken 10 or 20 days after a woman has had her period. Women should take this test every three years. Pregnant women can also take this test. However, you should consult with your doctor first. “For clear results, it is best to be screened 12 weeks after the birth of your child,”Manyonga told a news portal.
“It takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. It can take only five to 10 years in those with a weakened immune system, such as women with untreated HIV,”Manyonga told a news portal. Adding,“We can prevent the spread of HPV by educating men and women on safe sex practices."
Manyonga further explained: "Vaccinations against the virus for girls aged nine to 14, together with the promotion of regular screenings for those already engaged in sexual activity, should be encouraged."
There are different types of treatment options to tackle the disease. Many factors are taken into account when choosing the right option to treat cervical cancer - shape and size of the tumour, age, stage and patient's health.
Symptoms are usually difficult to detect as warning signs tend to be more noticeable at a very late stage. Some of the signs you need to be on the look out for are:
* Irregular intermenstrual bleeding
* Abnormal vaginal bleeding
* Leg pain
* Pelvic pain
* Weight loss
* Loss of appetite
* Vaginal discomfort
* Odorous discharge
A recent study conducted by a team from the Aarhus University found older women have a high risk of dying due to the disease. "Cervical cancer has become known as 'a young women's disease'. But it's a myth that it only affects young people. In fact, the mortality rate among women above the age of 65 is 25-30 per cent higher than previously thought," medical doctor and postdoc Anne Hammer from the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, told a news portal.
Hammer urges more women to get tested as it can make a huge difference. "When people are screened, the cancer can be discovered in its initial stages or at such an early stage that surgical treatment is still possible. This significantly reduces the risk of dying," Hammer told a news portal.
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