With over 14,000 cases recorded annually, cervical cancer is the second leading cancer affecting women in Nigeria because it is so easy to contract through multiple sources. However, it is also highly preventable, but sadly, many people do not know they have contracted the virus and end up passing it to other people.
We believe that if more people are made aware of the disease and how to prevent or treat it, everyone will be safer. Eventually, there will be one less cancer in the world to worry about. This article is meant to show you all you need to know about cervical cancer – symptoms, prevention and treatment.
1. How is it contracted?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina — and is mainly caused by various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
When a woman gets infected with HPV, her immune system prevents the virus from doing harm but the virus can survive for years, thereby causing some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancerous.
2. What are the risk factors?
- Having multiple sex partners because the more they are, the higher the risk
- Engaging in early sexual activity
- Contracting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Having a weak Immune System
3. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, but as it advances, signs include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Pelvic pain
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge which may have a foul odour
If you exhibit any of these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately because early detection is important increases your chance of survival.
4. How can you prevent cervical cancer?
Getting vaccinated against HPV and having regular screening tests can help you reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. Vaccination is available for girls and women between ages 9 and 26.
You can also prevent cervical cancer by:
- Getting routine Pap tests to detect precancerous conditions on the cervix.
- Practising safe sex: use a condom or stick to one partner because multiple partners increase your risk
- Not smoking.
5. How is cervical cancer treated?
Cervical cancer can be treated with surgery (hysterectomy) if detected early but this may have implications for childbirth. Cancer cells can also be killed with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Remember: cervical cancer is easy to contract and spread but with the correct information, you can also prevent it and ensure that you and your loved ones are protected.