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January is the worldwide awareness of deadly cervical cancer: What Is cancer? Every 10 minutes, a woman dies in Africa from the cancer of the woman’s womb

January is the worldwide awareness of deadly cervical cancer: What Is cancer? Every 10 minutes, a woman dies in Africa from the cancer of the woman's womb

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You are made up of trillions of cells that over your lifetime normally grow and divide as needed. When cells are abnormal or get old, they usually die. Cancer starts when something goes wrong in this process and your cells keep making new cells and the old or abnormal ones don’t die when they should. As the cancer cells grow out of control, they can crowd out normal cells. This makes it hard for your body to work the way it should. For many people, cancer can be treated successfully. In fact, more people than ever before lead full lives after cancer treatment.

Cancer is more than just one disease

There are many types of cancer. Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and is named for the part of the body where it started. For instance, breast cancer that starts in the breast is still called breast cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body. These cancers are alike in some ways, but can be different in the ways they grow, spread, and respond to treatment. Some cancers grow and spread fast. Others grow more slowly. Some are more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Others tend to stay where they started.

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Some types of cancer are best treated with surgery; others respond better to drugs such as chemotherapy. Often 2 or more treatments are used to get the best results.

What causes cancer?

Cancer cells develop because of multiple changes in their genes. These changes can have many possible causes. Lifestyle habits, genes you get from your parents, and being exposed to cancer-causing agents in the environment can all play a role. Many times, there is no obvious cause.

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How does cancer spread?

Cancer can spread from where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body., When cancer cells break away from a tumor, they can travel to other areas of the body through either the bloodstream or the lymph system. Cancer cells can travel through the bloodstream to reach distant organs. If they travel through the lymph system, the cancer cells may end up in lymph nodes. Either way, most of the escaped cancer cells die or are killed before they can start growing somewhere else. But one or two might settle in a new area, begin to grow, and form new tumors. This spread of cancer to a new part of the body is called metastasis.

In order for cancer cells to spread to new parts of the body, they have to go through several changes. They first have to become able to break away from the original tumor and then attach to the outside wall of a lymph vessel or blood vessel. Then they must move through the vessel wall to flow with the blood or lymph to a new organ or lymph node.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). The cervix connects the body of the uterus (the upper where a fetus grows) to the vagina (birth canal). Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control.

Cervical cancer risk factors

HPV, HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS, is the biggest risk for cervical cancer. Other factors that can also increase your risk include:

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), chlamydia, having multiple partners, obesity, OVERWEIGHT. A family history of cervical cancer, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, taking birth control pills for a longer period. Even if you have one or more of these factors, you’re not destined to get cervical cancer.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical Cancer: Symptoms and signs blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods., Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual.

o          Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination. Increased, vaginal discharge., Pain during sexual intercourse.

o          Bleeding after menopause.

Is cervical cancer curable

Cervical cancer is generally viewed as treatable and curable, particularly if it is diagnosed when the cancer is in an early stage. This disease occurs in the cervix, or the passageway that joins the lower section of the womb.

Where does cervical cancer usually start

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). The cervix connects the body of the uterus (the upper part where a fetus grows) to the vagina (birth canal). Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control.

Can a woman survive cervical cancer?

The 5-year survival rate for all people with cervical cancer is 66%. However, survival rates can vary by factors such as race, ethnicity, and age. For white women, For Black women, the 5-year survival rate is 58%.

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)

Infection appears to be involved in the development of more than 90% of cases; most people who have had HPV infections, however, do not develop cervical cancer.  Other risk factors include smoking, a weak immune system, birth control pills, starting sex at a young age, and having many sexual partners, but these are less important.

HPV vaccines protect against between two and seven high-risk strains of this family of viruses and may prevent up to 90% of cervical cancers.  As a risk of cancer still exists, guidelines recommend continuing regular Pap smears.  Other methods of prevention include: having few or no sexual partners and the use of condoms.

Cervical cancer screening using the Pap smear or acetic acid can identify precancerous changes which when treated can prevent the development of cancer. Treatment of cervical cancer may consist of some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.  Five-year survival rates in the United States are 68%.  Outcomes, however, depend very much on how early the cancer is detected.

What about using oral contraceptives

Long-term use of oral contraceptives is associated with increased risk of cervical cancer. Women who have used oral contraceptives for 5 to 9 years have about three times the incidence of multiple pregnancies (high number of pregnancies).

Having many pregnancies is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Among HPV-infected women, those who have had seven or more full-term pregnancies have around four times the risk of cancer compared with women with no pregnancies, and two to three times the risk of women who have had one or two full-term pregnancies


Checking the cervix by the papanicolaou test, or pap smear, for cervical cancer has been credited with dramatically reducing the number of cases of and mortality from cervical cancer in developed countries.

Pap smear screening every 3–5 years with appropriate follow-up can reduce cervical cancer incidence up to 80%.[42] Abnormal results may suggest the presence of precancerous changes, allowing examination and possible preventive treatment.

The treatment of low-grade lesions may adversely affect subsequent fertility and pregnancy., Personal invitations encouraging women to get screened are effective at increasing the likelihood they will do so. Educational materials also help increase the likelihood women will go for screening, but they are not as effective as invitations.


Another method used to detect cervical cancer is called colposcopy which is fortunately available at quite a number of government and private clinics in the Gambia. This procedure involves the use of a special binocular microscope that is called a colposcope and is very similar to a Pap smear procedure and can recognize any abnormal cells on the neck of the womb.

The doctor can then view the cells using the high-powered magnified microscope to detect any abnormal cancerous cells.

Some women are more at risk than others. Following factors increase the chances of Cervical Cancer in women:

Human Papilloma Virus: HPV is a widely spread sexually transmitted agent. HPV infection has been identified as the most important risk factor for cervical cancer.

Multiple Sex partners: polygamy and women who have more than one sex partner are at higher risk by increasing the chance of a Human


Two HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervix) reduce the risk of cancerous or precancerous changes of the cervix and perineum by about 93% and 62%, respectively., The vaccines are between 92% and 100% effective against HPV 16 and 18 up to at least 8 years.

HPV vaccines are typically given to age 9 to 26 as the vaccine is only effective if given before infection occurs. The vaccines have been shown to be effective for at least 4 to 6 years, and they are believed to be effective for longer; however, the duration of effectiveness and whether a booster will be needed is unknown. The high cost of this vaccine has been a cause for concern. Several countries have considered (or are considering) programs to fund HPV vaccination.

Every 10 minutes, a woman dies in Africa from the cancer of the woman’s womb.

It is actually a very true fact that every 10 minutes, a woman dies in Africa from cervical cancer (cancer of the neck of womb), identified significant number of cases here in The Gambia, incidence about 14% too, despite the fact that almost every case and I wish to emphasize almost every single case is preventable through a programmed of screening by been screened at least every two years.

The risk factors as in other cancer types, also cervical cancer, and the onset of disease can be prompted by specific risk factors. These may be Genetically, environmentally or the commonest, the high risks of vaginal washing, so called vaginal douching with water, locally made soaps, very often local and different herbal herpes liquids, ditto and many other harmful products unfortunately sold in the various pharmacies.

Using any of these motioned harmful products on God given a very natural and healthy tissues to every woman destroys the healthy and protective tissues and makes these areas extremely vulnerable for developing millions of harmful bacteria, fungal, viral, HPV and in particular for extremely easy transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and certainly and undoubtedly for HIV virus.

The outcome can end up not only with repeated serious symptoms of pelvic infections, long standing infertility (childless) and finally preventable death of very young women..

How is the HPV vaccine given

The HPV vaccine is given as 2 injections into the upper arm spaced at least 6 months apart., It’s important to have both doses of the vaccine to be properly protected. If you missed the HPV vaccine offered in school Year 8, you can get it for free up until your 25th birthday. But if you get your 1st vaccine dose at the age of 15 or over, you’ll need to have 3 injections. Men who have sex with men (MSM), and trans men and trans women who are eligible for the vaccine, will need 3 doses of the vaccine (2 if they’re under 15).

For further information who and un websites, email to [email protected], send messages to WhatsApp Dr Azadeh Tel. 002207774469.

Dr Hassan Azadeh MD, Senior Lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.

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