Cervical cancer is slow-growing cancer that is often detected in the later stages only. In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are rarely any symptoms, which is why screening plays a major role in the detection of cancer. In the United States alone, there are more than 11,000 cases of cervical cancer annually, according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Therefore, routine checkups by a professional like Gynecologist in Gulberg Lahore are a must for women, particularly those who are sexually active.
What are the risk factors of cervical cancer?
HPV: The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer in women is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is detected in almost 93 percent of all cervical cancers. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and more than 80 percent of sexually active people get it at some point in their life.
According to Dr. Summer Dewdney, a gynecological oncologist at Rush University Medical Center, the body’s immune system is usually able to clear HPV on its own and the virus alone is insufficient to cause cancer. However, trouble arises when there are contributing factors like smoking, pregnancy, weakened immune system and poor nutrition. These risk factors take the risk of getting cervical cancer much higher.
Childbirth: women infected with HPCV, who have had seven or more pregnancies and carried them to full-term are at increased risk of cervical cancer and should get regular checkups.
Use of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) for a long period of time: women infected with HPV who use OCPs for a period of five to nine years have three times the risk of cervical cancer in comparison to women who don’t use OCPs. After a decade of use, this risk increased four-fold.
How to decrease the risk of cervical cancer?
There is no single way to prevent cancer, but certain measures can decrease the risk of getting the cancer or detecting it early.
Get routine pap smears
Cervical cancers can be detected early when the pap smear is performed regularly. Pap smear involves screening of the cells of the cervix under a microscope to check for irregularities. Women should start pap smears from the age of 21 to 49, every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 should get it every five years. If there is history of bleeding with intercourse, it should be evaluated thoroughly by a healthcare professional.
Abnormal pap smears should be follow-up on and the in case of a prior abnormal result, HPV DNA test should also be performed.
The Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends to also screen for HPV. This test looks for certain types of HPV that are more notoriously involved in cancerous lesions and can detect precancerous and cancerous changes.
Get an HPV Vaccine
Since HPV is a virus, it can be prevented through vaccination. HPV vaccine is recommended for all sexually active women, particularly before they get exposed to the virus such as through sexual activity. These vaccines do not treat an active infection, rather, they work to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Complete vaccination involves a series of injections.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the HPV vaccination of children between the ages of 9 and 12. For teenagers above the age of 13, and young adults up to the age of 26, vaccination should be done as soon as possible. For individuals above the age of 26 years, the ACS doesn’t recommend vaccination.
Smokers are less likely to get rid of HPV from their body. Smoking can therefore, increase the chances of getting cervical cancer. Even second hand smokers are at higher risk, in comparison to non-smokers. Former smokers and current smokers have twice the risk of cervical dysplasia.
Cervical cancer if detected early, can be fully treated. For more information and risk assessment, one should get a thorough check-up from Gynaecologist in The Aga Khan University Hospital Karachi.