All women, regardless of whether they are single or married, are placed at risk of cervical cancer. In fact, according to the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has a projected average of more than 7,000 cases and 3,000 deaths linked to the disease every year. That said, although cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer found among Filipino women, it is actually one of the most treatable and preventable forms of cancer.
Here are some important details that you need to know on how to prevent, recognize, and seek treatment for the disease:
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a condition that involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the lining of the cervix. 99% of cervical cancers are linked to infections caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses that are usually transmitted via sexual contact.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Although infections caused by HPV rarely exhibit any symptoms, the virus may sometimes manifest in women as painless growths or lumps around the vagina or anus.
Once the infection has developed into cervical cancer, however, one may experience symptoms such as vaginal bleeding between periods, menstrual bleeding that is heavier or longer than usual, pain during sexual intercourse, bleeding after sexual intercourse, pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding after menopause, and unusual smells or colors found in vaginal discharge.
How can cervical cancer be detected?
According to statistics, cervical cancer deaths can be lowered by more than 80% if detected early for treatment. Performed in a doctor’s office or clinic, a pap test (or a pap smear) is often used to collect cells from a woman’s cervix to look for cell changes that may develop into cancer. The procedure is recommended to be repeated every three to five years for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old.
How can cervical cancer be prevented?
Studies show that up to 93% of cervical cancers can be prevented by taking the HPV vaccine, which is administered in a series of doses depending on the age of the recipient.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine is most effective when taken between the ages of 9–12. If the vaccination begins before the age of 15, a two-dose schedule is recommended, with each dose spaced 6–12 months apart. Otherwise, those who start the vaccination older than 15 are recommended a three-dose schedule.
If not taken during childhood, the vaccine is also recommended for those under the age of 26. Those aged 27–45 may speak with their doctors about receiving the vaccine; however, those within this age group may receive less benefits since more people would have already been exposed to HPV.
Other ways to prevent cervical cancer also include avoiding the consumption of tobacco or nicotine; staying aware of the STI and HPV status of your sexual partners; and using condoms, dental dams, and latex gloves during sexual activities.
How can cervical cancer be treated?
Depending on the kind of cervical cancer contracted and the spread of the disease, treatment may include using surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
Want to schedule a pap smear? You may inquire about Cardinal Santos Medical Center’s (CSMC) diagnostic services by contacting (02) 8727-0001, local 3705. For OB gynecologist schedules, you may contact CSMC at (02) 8727-0001, local 3006.
Cardinal Santos Medical Center. (2022, May 14). What is Cervical Cancer? Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/CardinalSantos/photos/5316925205038917
Cardinal Santos Medical Center. (2022, June 10). What is a Pap Test? Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/CardinalSantos/photos/5396158370448933
Cervical cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments. (n.d.). Cancer Council. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/cervical-cancer
Cervical Cancer is Preventable. (2020, March 16). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/cervical-cancer/index.html
What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Cervical Cancer? | CDC. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/prevention.htm