Oh women of my generation!
Shall I not educate you of a plight that could befall every bearer of a cervix?
Has the time not come for us to realize that the health of the cervix really matters?
Must a section of the women folk continue to upset the cervix by introducing unhealthy foreign substances into the genitals in the name of a better intercourse experience?
Must we all become victims of cervical cancer before we give “facts” a chance and do away with the “myths”?
Be ready to empower yourselves as you read through the rest of this much needed article!
What is cervical cancer?
This is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix and in case you are wondering, the cervix is the lower part of the uterus (also called the womb or where a baby grows during pregnancy) or the entrance to the uterus which connects to the vagina. The cervix (birth canal) being unique to females, cervical cancer specifically only affects women but men could suffer from other forms of cancer due to the HPV as well. It is the fourth most common cancer affecting women worldwide and the most common cancer in Gambian women according to the “Strategic plan for prevention and control of cervical cancer in The Gambia : 2016 – 2020”.
What causes cervical cancer?
Certain strains of a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is sexually transmitted stands as the most common cause of cervical cancer. However, be aware that not everyone who gets infected with HPV will automatically develop cervical cancer. As a matter of fact, the HPV is a common and usually, harmless virus but, cervical cancer is deadly if not detected early enough thus the need to combat it in all ways possible.
Who is at risk of developing cervical cancer (risk factors)?
A risk factor is basically anything that increases a person’s chances of getting a particular disease and different diseases certainly have different risk factors. Basically, every person with a cervix is at risk of cervical cancer although the chances are higher in sexually active women between ages 30 and 45. Other risk factors include the following:
o HPV infection
o Family history of cervical cancer
o Being sexually active especially with multiple sexual partners
o Having a weak immune system such as in women with HIV
o Long term use of oral contraceptives
What are the common symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer has its symptoms to give you a clue that a proper medical attention is required although these symptoms might occur due to other disease conditions different from cervical cancer. Below are a number of symptoms to pay attention to and seek medical care the soonest possible:
o Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
o A heavy and longer menstrual bleeding than usual
o Bleeding after intercourse
o Pelvic pain
o Pain during intercourse
o Unusual vaginal discharges
o Vaginal bleeding after menopause
Complications of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is associated with a number of complications that could be as a result of the cancer itself or the treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery. They could be minor in nature such as vaginal bleeding but could equally be life threatening as in the case of kidney failures. Certain surgical procedures could also imply complete inability to bear children ever again. Thus, prevention is the safe route out. You’re better off being safe than sorry.
Preventive measures of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is preventable and measures include the following:
o Regular screenings such as the HPV test and Pap smear test geared towards early detection and treatment.
o Quitting smoking
o Practice of safe sex using condoms etc
o Getting vaccinated with HPV vaccine if available
Cervical cancer is very much preventable and in fact, treatable when detected early. That which plays a vital role in you experiencing the joys of motherhood deserves to be protected. So dear ladies, protect your cervix and stay healthy always.