|Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and the seventh overall, with an estimated 528,000 new cases in 2012 worldwide.|
It ranks as 2nd leading cause of female cancer in the Philippines next to breast cancer. It is the 2nd most common female cancer in women aged 15 to 44 years old in the Philippines. Women with cervical cancer are found to be positive for the high-risk Human Papillomavirus or HPV. This virus can be transmitted during sexual intercourse. This infection does not have any symptoms and most women do not know that they have the virus. Sexual penetration is not necessary for the virus to be transmitted, as genital skin to skin contact is enough to transmit the virus. A woman must be infected by HPV to develop cervical cancer.
These are the factors that can lead to cervical cancer:
- The first sexual contact at the early age, the shorter the interval from the age of first menstruation to the age of the first sexual intercourse, the higher the possibility of having cervical cancer.
- Having multiple partners can raise the risk.
- History of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
- First birth at an early age (younger than 20 years old).
- Having a lot of children.
- Women who smoke has more chance of having cervical cancer than those who are non-smokers.
- Medically unsupervised oral contraceptives use of more than 5 years.
Persistent HPV infection and early cervical cancer have no symptoms. As time goes by and the cancer progresses, symptoms will arise and it includes vaginal bleeding, blood tinged and foul-smelling watery vaginal discharge, bleeding after sexual contact and low back pain or pain during intercourse. Screening is the best way to detect cervical cancer even if one does not have symptoms.
Of all gynecologic cancers, cervical cancer is the most preventable because there are two ways to screen: the Pap smear and HPV testing. The Philippine Society of Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (PSCPC) recommends screening by a Pap smear at the age of 21. Pap smear maybe uncomfortable but it is relatively Pain-free. The gynecologist will insert a speculum in the vaginal canal to gently collect cells from the cervix. The cells collected will be subject for examinations if it has abnormalities. Therefore, before if abnormalities or before it becomes a mass or lesion, early cellular changes can be seen and treated. At 30, combination of HPV test and Pap smear is recommended. Co-testing will enable gynecologist to examine not just the abnormalities but also the infection with a high-risk HPV that could lead to cancer. In the Philippines, even at the senior age of 65, the incident of having cervical cancer is still high. A Pap Smear is recommended every 1 to 2 years depending on whether conventional or liquid-based cytology was used. It is very important to see a gynecologist at least once a year even if you do not have the symptoms. Primary prevention is the best key to get away with cervical cancer and it includes: Abstinence, lifetime Mutual monogamy, delay in onset of sexual intercourse, and HPV vaccination.
Every woman is at risk so take and do all necessary action to prevent it, to cure it and to get away from cervical cancer. Screening method are accessible and is very affordable.
Take action now and beat cervical cancer down.