Cervical Cancer Awareness: What You Should Know.
Several years ago, I was a freshly minted medical doctor who found herself as the only doctor-on-call in the Emergency room of a JCI-accredited hospital deep in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. I quickly realized early in my career life that the ER was not going to be my "thing". I knew pretty early to choose internal medicine. There I was, face to face with a middle-aged woman who was in acute painful distress from complications of cervical cancer that had spread around her body. I did all I could to alleviate her pain. I cannot forget the forlorn look on her face. The sad reality is that her clinical state at that time could have been prevented. If only she was equipped with knowledge and deep understanding about cervical cancer and it's prevention pretty early.
A couple of years back, my mom came visiting on holiday from Nigeria and I ensured that she had a cervical screening before she left back for home. I know that I am a good daughter, thank you. Apart from the "feel good" vibes. It was reassuring to know things are okay from that perspective.
Are things okay from "that perspective" for you and all you loved ones that are females?
I had mine done last year and that was okay. That sounded like TMI, but anyways... Just trying to motivate at least someone to do the right thing. I believe in leadership by example. So, do as I do!
The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is virtually always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests).
While cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions with an estimated 570 000 new cases in 2018 (84% of the new cases worldwide).
For a disease that is so preventable, it is so unfortunate when it happens. Almost a disaster.
That is why I am taking advantage of the fact that the month of January is cervical cancer awareness month to educate, inform and encourage people to make informed choices about their health.
Cervical cancer screening with Pap smear lowers mortality( this means the state of being subject to death). The pap smear should start at age 21 years. This is regardless of the onset of sexual activity. Pap smears should be done at every three years until age 65 years, when they can be stopped. Cervical Pap screening has dramatically lowered cervical cancer mortality by detecting precancerous changes before they progress to invasive cancer.
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
1) The Pap test (or Pap smear) which looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
2) The HPV test which looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will use a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen your vagina. This helps the doctor examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are sent to a laboratory.
HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Anyone who has ever been sexually active can get HPV, but you are more likely to get it if you have had many sex partners or have had sex with someone who has had many partners. Because it is so common, most people get HPV infections shortly after becoming sexually active for the first time.
Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV.
Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions. There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oropharynx.
HPV(Human papillomavirus virus) vaccine is approved for men and women up to age 45 years. Human papillomavirus vaccine can prevent cervical, anal and oral cancers. The Gardasil 9 vaccine, which was approved by the FDA a couple of years back, protects against nine different strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), to cover women and men ages 27 to 45.
Prevention is better than cure. Take charge of your healthy today and spread the message!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
― Benjamin Franklin