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. In 2015, the World Health Organisation explained that approximately 90% the 270,000 deaths from cervical cancer occurred in low and middle income countries. This broadens the need for enlightenment to females in Nigeria.
TYPES OF CERVICAL CANCER
The type of cervical cancer that one has helps determine the prognosis and treatment. The two 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.
- HPV Infection: Often, a wrong perspective of this infection has been projected and this has instilled fear in the heart of many. Having an HPV infection does not mean one will have cervical cancer. In most cases, HPV infection will clear on its own but women with persistent HPV are at risk.
- Smoking: Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer
- Weak and immunocompromised system
- Early sexual intercourse
- Multiple Sexual Partners
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced disease include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
CAN CERVICAL CANCER BE PREVENTED?
This question seems to be unanswered in the heart of many. Below are some ways you can help prevent this condition:
- Routine Pap tests.
- Get vaccinated against HPV.
- Practice safe sex.
- Avoid smoking
Screening is very important because;
- It helps find cancers at an earlier stage when they have a better chance of being cured.
- It also help detect pre-cancer changes that can be treated to prevent cancer from developing
Laboratory diagnostic procedures includes;
- Pap Smear: A test which collects cells from the surface of the cervix to check for any abnormal cells. Its importance includes:
- Abnormal cells can be removed or treated before cervical cancer develops.
- When cancer is detected early, it is easier to treat.
- A pelvic exam is NOT a Pap test.
- HPV tests: Here a very skilled Scientist looks for HPV DNA
- Visual Inspection with Ascetic Acid (VIA): This allows doctors to directly see lesions and other changes in the cervix that are large enough to, presumably, need treatment.
References: WHO Fact Sheet on Cancer, National Library of Science, Mayo Clinic
Related articles: Ever wondered why smoking is so dangerous?
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