In its most common term, cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix. The onset of this particular illness begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic change (mutation) that causes them to turn into abnormal cells. These abnormal cells also have the ability to spread to other parts of the body. If this does not seem serious enough, after breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in the world. However, global awareness of this disease is extremely low; this may be contributed to the fact that third world countries have exceptionally larger cases of this disease. Cervical cancer is the only cancer that is almost completely avoidable by safe, simple and inexpensive means and yet, every hour one woman dies an unnecessary death from this cancer in the world.
Knowledge is power; therefore being aware will not only help you protect yourself from this illness, you will also be well informed about what causes this disease. Any woman who is sexually active is at risk of getting this disease. However, there are cases of higher risk to this disease.
Certain factors have been recognized as high risk factors for cervical cancer:
- Getting married or having intercourse at an early age is considered a risk factor.
- Early or multiple pregnancies. Experiencing child birth at an early age will also put you at risk.
- Having multiple sexual partners increase the possibility of getting the disease
- Persistent HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Infection.
(When a woman is exposed to HPV, typically her immune system will prevent the virus from doing any harm; however, in some women, the virus can survive for years. This causes some of the cells on the cervix to become cancerous.
- Women receiving immune-suppressant drugs
- Using birth control pills.
Most cervical cancer cases are not curable as they are diagnosed at a late stage. This occurs because of the fact that, during the early stage of cervical cancer, there are no symptoms. As the cancer gets more advanced, symptoms begin to appear. Some of these symptoms are:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse
- Heavy, watery discharge that has a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
In order to catch this disease in its early stages, getting regular screenings is a must. Screening however should not be confused with a diagnostic test. A screen merely detects a possible high risk case. The main aim of a screen is to recognize women who are at a high risk of developing cervical cancer.
The screening process usually includes:
- Inspection of the cervix
- Pap Smear
- Colposcopy examination.
Regular screening and Pap smear tests should commence typically at the age of 25, especially if the individual is sexually active. If the first test appears normal then the woman need only repeat the test after three years. About half of all the cases of cervical cancer occur in women between 35-55 years of age; hence women need to be more aware at this stage. So ladies, stay aware, stay happy and stay healthy & safe.