Image by Freepik

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth leading cancer in women, preceded by breast cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer respectively. It is ranked by the HPV Information Centre as the second most frequent cancer among women between the ages of 15 and 44 in Ghana. About 2,797 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 1,699 of them die from the disease.  Let’s delve into cervical cancer; its causes, symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures.

Pursuant to National Cancer Institute (NCI), cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The primary cause of it is the Human  Papillomavirus (HPV).  Medical News Today also revealed that, cervical cancer has about 92% five-year relative survival rate. Cervical cancer is one of the few types of cancer that when detected in its early stages, can be treated before the abnormally developed cells spread to other parts of the body.

According to NCI, Squamous cell cartinomia and Adenocarcinomia are the two main types of cervical cancer. The former are cancers that develop from cells in the ectocervix. Most cancers that rangers between 80% – 90% are squamous cell carcinomas, and the latter is a type of cervical cancer which develops in the glandular cells lining the cervical canal, and this accounts for about 10-20% of cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer can also be classified into stages, which are done using the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).

Stage 1: In this stage, the tumour is usually small and hasn’t grown inside the organ it started in. Stages 2 and 3 has their tumour larger or has grown outside of the organ it started in to nearby tissue. With stage 4, the cancer has spread through the blood or lymphatic system to a distant site in the body.

The main cause of cervical cancer as stated already, is the HPV. It is a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. Some types of HPV can cause changes on your cervix that can lead to cervical cancer overtime, while other types can cause genital or skin warts. Women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus have high risk of cervical cancer because it is difficult for the body to fight any form of HPV.

How do you know you have cervical cancer? Pelvic pain is one of the signs of cervical cancer according to Cancer.Net. If you experience some kind of discomfort in your lower abdomen or pelvis, you need to test for cervical cancer. You can also experience pain during sexual intercourse if you have the disease. Another indication can be groin (abnormal vaginal bleeding). There is also abnormal, heavy menstruation as a symptom. Ever experienced any of these symptoms mentioned? Go for a cervical cancer test now to save you from future complications and possible death.

Speaking about going for a test, you can go for screening. The most common one is the Pap smear (pap test), where a brush is used to remove sample of cells from the surface of the cervix and then reviewed by a pathologist in the lab. According to WHO, the target audience for cervical cancer screening is women between the ages of  30 – 49 years old, and in Ghana, only 2.7% of women go for screening annually, per Ghana Medical Journal.

Cervical cancer can however be treated through surgery (removal of cancer tissues), chemotherapy (drugs are prescribed to a patient to either kill or shrink the disease), or radiation therapy (use of high energy rays like X rays to kill the diseases).

Per the above information, I’m very sure you wouldn’t want to end up  battling death over a disease you could have prevented or treated (if detected early). Get vaccinated against HPV, regularly go for screening as it is easier to cure in its early stages, and see your doctor to explain to you about the disease. Don’t forget to save a sister/mother/friend by sharing the information with others.

Source: Ghana/ Akugri