The fight against Cervical cancer

04 May, 2018 - 00:05 0 Views

The ManicaPost

Dr Tendai Zuze Health Matters
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (chibereko) that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cases of cervical cancer. When exposed to HPV, a woman’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.

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Early cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. As the cancer progresses, the following signs and symptoms may appear:

Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause

Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour

Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

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Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a mutation that turns normal cells into abnormal cells. Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate, eventually dying at a set time. Cancer cells grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumour). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can break off from an initial tumour to spread elsewhere in the body. What causes cervical cancer isn’t clear. However, it’s certain that the sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a role. While HPV is a very common virus, most women with HPV never develop cervical cancer. This means other risk factors — such as your genetic makeup, your environment or your lifestyle choices — also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer.

The type of cell where the initial genetic mutation occurred determines the type of cervical cancer you have which helps determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are: Squamous cell carcinomas. These begin in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) that line the outer portion of the cervix, which projects into the vagina.

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When cervical cancer is detected in its earliest stages, treatment is more likely to be successful. Most guidelines suggest beginning screening for cervical cancer and precancerous changes at age 21. Screening for cervical cancer includes:

Pap smear test. During a Pap test, your doctor scrapes and brushes cells from your cervix and sends the sample to a lab to be examined for abnormalities.

VIAC. Where the cervix is stained with acetic acid and inspected for visible cancerous changes.

HPV DNA test. If you are age 30 or older, your doctor may also use a lab test called the HPV DNA test to determine whether you are infected with any of the types of HPV that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer.

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You may reduce your risk of cervical cancer if you:

Use a condom every time you have sex

Delay first intercourse

Have fewer sexual partners

Avoid smoking

Get vaccinated against HPV

Vaccines can protect against the most dangerous types of HPV — the virus that plays a role in causing most cervical cancers. The vaccine is most effective if given to girls before they become sexually active. The ministry of health and child care will very soon embark on a programme to vaccinate girls aged between 10 and 14 years. In theory, vaccinating boys against HPV and male circumcision may also help protect girls from the virus. When diagnosed early, cervical cancer can be cured.

If you are worried about cervical cancer or would like to be screened for the same, please visit your doctor.


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