As we enter a brand new year, Cancer Pro, the leading voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers are proud to support Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Cervical Cancer – the facts
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world. In 2018, an estimated 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide, and about 311,000 women died from the disease.
Here in Malaysia Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women, but its screening rate is unacceptably low. Only 12.9% of women in Malaysia have a pap smear once in their life, usually after giving birth.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
What are the signs for Cervical Cancer?
During its earliest stages, cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. However, advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding after sex.
If you have any of these signs, visit your doctor. While this issue may result from something other than cancer, the only way to know for sure is to consult with your doctor.
What are the possibilities of Cervical Cancer?
Unfortunately, all women are at risk of cervical cancer, and it occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of Cervical cancer.
HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. Without knowing at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, and for most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that it may lead over time to cervical cancer.
How to manage the risk of Cervical Cancer?
The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting from the age of 21.
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early, and these include a Pap test/smear and an HPV test, both of which can happen at a doctors office or clinic.
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus human papillomavirus that may well cause these cell changes.
Along with the two screening tests, another way to reduce Cervical Cancer’s risk is the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
- Currently, the HPV vaccination is recommended to preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but, in some instances, it can also be given starting at age 9.
- The HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they have not been previously vaccinated.
- The HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults aged 27 through 45 who have not previously had the vaccine, may decide to go ahead with it but, only after speaking with their doctor about their risk of new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less use, as more people will have already had HPV.
While the HPV vaccination helps prevent any new HPV infections, it does not treat existing conditions or diseases; hence why the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV.
To help reduce the risk of Cervical Cancer, you should have regular screening, even if you have received an HPV vaccine.
How Cervical Cancer is diagnosed and can be treated
Once you have been diagnosed with Cervical Cancer, your doctor will refer you to a Gynecologic Oncologist – this is a doctor who is fully trained to treat cancers of a woman’s reproductive system.
The Gynecologic Oncologist will work with you to create a treatment plan. The extent of disease is referred to as the ‘stage’. Information about the cancer size or how far it has spread is often used to determine the stage. Doctors then use this information to plan the treatment and monitor its progress.
Types of Treatment
The treatment for Cervical Cancer depends on the kind of Cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Typically treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
- Surgery: is where Doctors remove the cancer tissue during an operation.
- Chemotherapy: is the use of particular medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. These drugs can be pills you take or medications given in your veins, or a combination of both.
- Radiation: is where high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) are used to kill the cancer.
What is the future for Cervical Cancer?
Regular screening tests and the use of the HPV vaccine can help prevent Cervical cancer, and if detected early enough, it is highly treatable. It is associated with prolonged survival and good quality of life.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families, and caregivers. For more information regarding Cervical Cancer, please visit www.cancer-pro.com.