Cervical Cancer – Detect It Early
Cervical cancer ranks high on the list of common cancers that plague women worldwide; it comes second after breast cancer in prevalence. More than 300,000 women die of cervical cancer every year, worldwide, while in the United States alone, 13,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year, with about 4,000 deaths. Most cases of cervical cancer are reported in women between 40 and 55years of age, though it is not unusual for women in their late thirties to be infected.
However, unlike breast and other forms of cancer, the cause and factors inducing cervical cancer is well established, except in very limited number of cases. The culprit in most cases of cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus can remain in the female genitalia for a very long time, wreaking havoc on the cells of the cervix over a long period of time. It is reported that not all cases of HPV infections lead to cervical cancer, however what is clear is that the virus is capable of inducing abnormal changes in the cervical cells. Some of these abnormal changes in the cells result in what is medically known as ‘high grade lesions’, which, sometimes may progress into cervical cancer.
Though HPV is recognized as the reason behind most cases of cervical cancer, there are other factors that play important roles in the cause and progression of cervical cancer, these include; numerous sex partners over a period of time; this increases the chance of HPV infection, the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, weak immune system, which reduces the ability of the body to fight the virus, early sexual activity, as non-matured cells of the cervix are more likely to succumb to viral infection, and sometimes, cigarette smoking, though this has not been conclusively established. It is important to point out that the body’s immune system is usually capable of suppressing the viral activity of HPV, thus cervical cancer only results in women whose immune system could not sufficiently control the virus.
Pap smears are the only established method for cervical cancer screening. This test involves brushing cells off the surface of the cervix and examining the cells under a microscope for the presence of cancerous or precancerous changes or lesions. Presently, Pap smear is a routine test for women in most developed countries and this has really helped to reduce the number of deaths that are recorded due to cervical cancer. However, some critics have argued that the Pap smear test is not always completely accurate. It is advisable to carry out the test in at least two laboratories, seek at least two professional opinions and then compare, especially if you observe early symptoms of cervical cancer or you believe you are perfectly alright but the test result shows otherwise.
Though there are no clear cut symptoms of cervical cancer, as it often progress without warning, the presence of the following symptoms or signs might be an indication of the presence of cervical cancer; vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse or pain during intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge, unusual bleeding between menstrual periods or abnormally heavy bleeding during menstrual periods, increased urine frequency or pelvic pain. Again, these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer, but they are good reasons for you to go see your doctor.