WHAT IS THE CERVIX?
The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). It is part of a female reproductive system and it connects the uterus to the vagina. It is also called the uterine. The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix and the part next to the vagina is the exocervix. The place where these 2 parts meet is called the Transformation Zone, most cervical cancers start in the Transformation Zone. It begins with the change in the surface of the cells or lining of the cervix but over time, cancer can invade more deeply into the cervix and nearby tissues.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women worldwide. One of the most important risk factors for Cervical Cancer is infection by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV can be spread during sex including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is very contagious and it is a sexually transmitted virus that has more than 100 variations/types. Some of the variations can cause cervical cancer, which is one of the deadliest types of gynecological cancer.
The HPV can disappear on its own if the immune system is strong enough to fight it, however, it can sometimes cause abnormal cell growth which can turn into cervical malignancy.
HPV 16 and 18, mainly cause about 70% of cervical cancers while HPV 6 and 11 cause 90% of most genital warts. HPV-related cancers often take years to develop after getting an HPV infection. Cervical cancer usually develops over 10 or more years. There can be a long interval between being infected with HPV, the development of abnormal cells on the cervix, and the development of cervical cancer. Some but not all women with high-grade abnormalities on the cervix will develop cervical cancer if they are not treated. Sometimes women with strong immune systems will not have cervical cancer.
There are other HPV-related cancers like anal oropharyngeal, vagina, and penile. These deadly viruses are largely preventable with early screening and Vaccination.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer can be diagnosed early by having regular screening. Early changes in cervical cells rarely cause symptoms; the symptoms often go unnoticed because they mimic other ailments, the most common signs include:
*Vaginal bleeding between periods.
*Menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual.
*Pain during sexual intercourse.
*Unusual vaginal bleeding after menopause.
*Leg pain or swelling.
*Lower back pain.
These symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cervical cancer, for example, other infections can cause pain or bleeding. If you have any signs or other suspicious symptoms, you should see your health care professional. Ignoring symptoms may allow cancer to progress to more advanced stage and lower your chance for effective treatment.
HOW IS CERVICAL CANCER PREVENTED?
Ways to curb the development of the disease include:
*Cervical Cancer Awareness: ignorance remains the underlying risk factor for most Nigerian women.
*Regular screening: With regular screening cervical cancer can be detected at the Institu stage (early stage), HPV can remain in an infected woman as long as ten years before it develops into invasive cancer.
*Get vaccinated: Vaccines have been developed to protect women from HPV infections or prevent women from being infected with HPV.
*Avoid being exposed to human papillomavirus (HPV) by not having numerous sex partners.
*Abstinence: Avoid completely.
*Don’t smoke: Researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals (benzyrene ) from cigarette smoke in the cervical mucus of women who smokes.
*Use of condoms: Condoms provide some protection against HPV. When condoms are used correctly it can lower HPV infection rate at about 70%..