Sun, 01 April 2018
Cervical cancer afflicts women when abnormal cells in the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) grow out of control. It can often be successfully treated when it’s detected in the early stages by a Pap test.
Most cases are caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. There are many strains of the infection, and not all cause cancer.
Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time. It may go away on its own, result in genital warts, or lead to cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important for women to have regular screenings that can detect cellular changes before they turn into cancer. If these anomalies are treated, cervical cancer can be prevented.
Abnormalities in the cervix rarely cause symptoms. If they do grow into cancer, they show symptoms like unusual vaginal bleeding (between menstrual periods, after intercourse or after menopause), pain in the lower pelvic area, painful intercourse or irregular vaginal discharge.
During a Pap test, the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix to look for cell changes. If the test shows abnormal cell changes, your doctor may further investigate to look for precancerous or malignant cells on the cervix.
It’s important to follow up with your doctor after any abnormal result, so abnormal cell changes can be treated before they become malignant.
If you are aged 26 or younger, you can get the HPV vaccine, which protects against types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. As the virus is spread through sexual contact, it is important to practise safe intercourse (by using condoms) and limiting the number of partners you have.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following:
• Cervical cancer screening must begin at age 21. Up to the age of 29, a Pap test must be conducted every three years, with no need for HPV testing unless there are unfavourable Pap test results.
• The preferred approach for ladies between the ages of 30 and 65 is to have a Pap test and an HPV test every five years. But it is also acceptable to have only a Pap test every three years.
• Women over 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer should continue to be screened.
• If the uterus and cervix are removed in a hysterectomy and there is no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer, screening is not necessary.
• Women who have had the HPV vaccine should
still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
• Those with high risk of cervical cancer may need to be screened more often, including those with HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES. They should discuss this further with their doctor or nurse.
Middle East Hospital has a full-fledged obstetrics and gynaecology department that provides excellent health care facilities dedicated to women.