Every two minutes around the world, a woman dies of cervical cancer. Among the female population in Nigeria, it is the most common cancer. In 2007, it was reported that 36 million women aged 15 years in Nigeria were at risk of developing cervical cancer. Incidence of cervical cancer in Nigeria is 250/100000 women.
It is rather unfortunate that in Nigeria, we don’t have sufficient facilities to treat cancer patients.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina)
It is not clear what causes cervical cancer but it is certain that human papillomavirus (HPV) is very common and most women live with the virus without developing cervical. Other factors such as environment, lifestyle choices and genetic factors also determine the development of cervical cancer.
RISK FACTORS OF CERVICAL CANCER
Risk factors include;
Multiple sexual partners – the greater the number of sexual partners, the greater the chance of acquiring HPV.
Early sexual activity – Having sex at an early age increases risk of HPV
Other sexually transmitted infections (STIS) – Having other STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV/AIDs increased risk of HPV.
Weak Immune system – Weak Immune System from other health conditions might increase risk of HPV.
Smoking – Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
Birth Control Pills – Long term use of some common contraceptive pills slightly raises a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.
Early stage cervical cancer generally a woman produces no signs or symptoms.
Symptoms at the advanced stage of cervical cancer include:
Vaginal bleeding- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods and after menopause.
Watery, bloody discharge that may be heavy and have foul smell
Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
Treatments for cervical cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or combination of these.
Deciding on the kind of treatment depend on several factors, such as state of cancer as well as age and overall state of health.
Treatment for early stage cervical cancer when the cancer remain within the service, has good prognosis. But if the cancer has spread, then the treatment’s success is low.
Surgery – a common treatment method when cancer has not spread from the cervix. Radiation therapy may also be considered because it may reduce the occurrence.
Treatment for advanced cervical cancer need to be extensive. This will involve radiation therapy or combination of radiation and chemotherapy.
To reduce risk of cervical cancer, there are some preventive measures to be taken.
Vaccination – vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) is available for girls and women from age 9 – 26. Vaccine must be effective if given to girls before they are sexually active.
Cervical Screening – pap’s test can detect pre – cancerous condition of the cervix. Routine pap’s test should begin at age 21.
Safe sex – practice safe sex by using condom sticking to a partner at a time and delaying intercourse,
Delaying first sexual intercourse – a younger women is advised to delay sexual intercourse for the first time. The longer she delays the longer the risk of (HPV)
Stopping smoking – women who smoke and have (HPV) face higher risk of developing cervical cancer than women who do not.
Early cervical cancer diagnosis improves the success rate of treatment.
Cervical smear test – women aged 30 years and over should undergo a regular pap test or cervical smear test, to detect early signs of cancer of the uterus and cervix.
HPV DNA testing – this test determines whether individual has any types of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer. This involves collecting cells from the cervix for lab testing.
Other investigations include colposcopy; examination under anesthesia, biopsy; cone biopsy; diathermy; blood tests; MRI, CT scan and pelvic ultrasound.
Prognosis – the stage at which a person receives cervical cancer diagnosis can help indicate their chances ofsurvival for at least five more years.
Stage 1 – early stage one, the chance of surviving at least five years is 93% and in late stage one it is 80%
Stage 2 in early stage 2 the rate is 63% falling to 58% by the end of stage 2
Stage 3 – the chance fall from 35% to 32%
Stage 4 people with stage 4 cervical cancer have 15 to 16% chance of surviving another 5 years
These are average survival rates and do not applied to everyone. In some cases treatment is successful up to stage 4
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