Cervical Cancer Awareness – The Facts You Should Know
January 5, 2022
Globally, we dedicate the month of January to activities that improve Cervical Cancer Awareness.
In some African countries, poor education and misconceptions limit how people can look for health care and advice when needed.
This means people may not seek help for changes in their bodies until it’s too late.
While this is the case for many cancers, Cervical Cancer is quite different.
Research has indicated a clear pre-cancerous stage of cervical cancer.
In addition, also unlike many other types of cancer, we have identified a specific cause and process for the development of cancer.
And finally, we have a vaccine that can halt the initial steps before the pre-cancerous state begins.
We have listed some of the common facts about Cervical Cancer below:
Cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Nigeria and 5th in the United Kingdom – it is treatable in its pre-cancerous state.
Unlike other cancers, we know what causes cervical cancer – the Human Papillomavirus, HPV.
Cervical cancer is preventable – by taking the HPV vaccine. Girls as young as 12 and 13 years can have the vaccine (Gardasil and Cervarix ).
Using condoms during sex offers some protection against HPV. However, condoms cannot always prevent infection since the virus also spreads through skin-to-skin contact of the wider genital area.
Screening, the process of detecting early signs of cancer, is available for Cervical cancer.
The PAP smear does not diagnose cervical cancer, it is a screening test only.
The best time for your test is 14 days before your next period to get clear results. To get clear results, avoid sexual intercourse and lubricants for at least 24 hours beforehand as these may affect test results.
You will usually receive results in a couple of weeks. If your result is normal, you will only need to repeat the test again after 3 years (or 5 years).
Abnormal test – an abnormal test does not mean cancer. However, it indicates a change in the appearance of the cervical cells that may suggest the presence of HPV; and, if left untreated, may eventually progress to cervical cancer.
Low-grade changes mean some abnormal changes; there may be HPV infection as well, which means you may need further testing (colposcopy).
Low-grade changes often may not need treatment, and women may be asked to repeat the procedure as usual after 3 years.
Usually, if high-grade changes are treated, more frequent tests will be done, e.g. repeat PAP smear after 6 months or 12 months.
Other changes include bleeding during or after sexual intercourse; or in women who have stopped having periods (menopause), starting to bleed again vaginally (post-menopausal bleeding). Read here to learn about Menopause Symptoms and Treatments.
Please seek help without delay.
If the cervix has an unusual appearance, you will be referred to a specialist for further advice and treatment.
You may also click here to see cervical cancer screening (pap smear) centres in Nigeria.
Editing by AskAwayHealth
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly
Image Credits: Canva
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