Cervical Cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide. In Kenya, about 2,451 deaths occur annually resulting to cervical cancer being ranked as the 1st leading cause of cancer deaths in women aged 15 to 44 years.
What is Cervical Cancer you may ask? Cervical cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the cervix. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Over time, the abnormal cells may become cancer cells and start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas. What are the causes of Cervical Cancer?
Any thing that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor & anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective factor. The leading cause of cervical cancer is a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. Other factors include having multiple sexual partners, early onset of sexual activity, History of STDs, HIV/Aids Infection and cigarette smoking.
Some of the Risk factors may be avoided while others cannot be avoided. E.g Smoking can be avoided while inherited genes cannot be avoided. However cervical cancer is now almost an entirely preventable disease. It is not a guarantee that it can be entirely be prevented but if detected early it is treatable. There preventive measures one can take.
What are these preventive measures:
1. Regular screening: Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs that could show that a cancer is starting to develop. Cervical screening is a way of preventing cancer by finding and treating early changes in the neck of the womb (cervix). These changes could lead to cancer if left untreated. This can help find cancer at an early stage . When abnormal tissues /cancer is found early , it may be easier to treat. Please note that it is important to remember that your doctor doesn’t necessarily think you have cancer if he /she suggests you go for screening.
2.Getting an HPV vaccine: This vaccine is also known as the Cervical cancer vaccine. HPV vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer, it doesn't guarantee that you won't develop the condition. You should still attend cervical screening tests, even if you've had the vaccine.
3.Avoid Smoking: You can reduce your chances of getting cervical cancer by not smoking. People who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can develop into cancer.
4.Maintaining a healthy lifestyle: your wellbeing is key in every aspect of your life. With proper diet and exercise, you can maintain your weight and health in general. Stay healthy at all times.
1. American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/
2. NHS UK: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-cervix/Pages/Introduction.aspx
3. Center for Disease Control & Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/