Cervical Cancer Myths Busted and How to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Dr. Salvador Villanueva
- Cervical cancer is caused by genetic factors, just like the other cancers.To understand cervical cancer, we must first familiarize ourselves with the area that is greatly affected by this cancer: the cervix. The cervix is the narrow part of the lower uterus, often referred to as the neck of the womb. Cervical cancer comes into the picture when there is severe abnormal changes caused by the infection to high-risk types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the cells of the cervix. In fact, 99.7% of women with cervical cancer are positive for HPV. So how does one acquire HPV? HPV is easily passed during sexual contact or even through genital skin to skin contact, without penetrative sex. Condoms may reduce the risk but are not fully protective. So to say cervical cancer is caused by genetic factors is a no-no. Cervical cancer is caused by infection with the Human Papilloma Virus.
Cervical cancer affects only women with multiple sexual partners.
The risk of acquiring cervical HPV infection was 46% at 3 years after first intercourse with only one sexual partner. Globally, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women. So common that every 2 minutes, a woman dies from it. Here in the Philippines, it is also the 2nd most common and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in women. Incidence starts rising at the age of 35, affecting Pinays when they are still very productive, maybe just started their families, while their children are still young, or at the peak of their careers.
Cervical cancer can be detected early; thus, can be treated early and cheaply Based on statistics, most Filipinas diagnosed with cervical cancer (40-60%) are in late stage III. And three out of four women diagnosed with cervical cancer will die within 5 years. How did they acquire that stage? Did they just disregard the signs? Did they not give importance to their health? There are no early signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. Rather, as the cancer progresses, these signs and symptoms may appear:
1. Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause.
2. Foul smelling watery, bloody vaginal discharge.
3. Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
If you are experiencing these signs, go to your OB-Gynecologist for consultation and possible Pap smear. Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are now available and accessible in the Philippines for patients with cervical cancer.
There is no hope against cervical cancer.
Screening and vaccination are your ways in preventing this cancer. It is important to take 3 doses of HPV vaccination to ensure its maximum effectiveness. Screening is done through regular Pap smears. It is recommended to have a Pap smear 2 years after the first sexual contact. Consult your physician about it. Other prevention methods include monogamy (or having just one sexual partner), and use of barrier contraceptives such as condoms.
The best time to get the HPV vaccine is when a woman is older or married.
As early as 10 years old, Filipinas are recommended by the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology Society to get the HPV vaccination. It is beneficial for every Pinay to get one as it reduces suffering and death of women, and the grief and financial burden felt by the patients’ families. It is best to have the vaccination before sexual activity starts so that one develops antibodies to the HPV virus before one might get infected through sexual activity. However, even if one is older, vaccination still offers some protection against cervical cancer although less if compared to the protection if vaccination was done earlier.
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Dr. Salvador Villanueva is a fellow of the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology Society and a fellow of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines.
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