Cervical cancer

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This is a cancer that can be prevented and one that can be successfully treated when found early.

The cervix is the narrow channel between the uterus (womb) and the vagina. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection, which is spread sexually and usually causes few or no symptoms at all. HPV takes many years and even decades to bring about cancerous changes. Cervical cancer or cancer of the cervix, is the fourth most common cancer in women.

Prevention

Girls and young women (before onset of sexual activity) can be vaccinated against HPV infection. This is a very effective vaccine that will prevent 90% of cancer cases.

Avoiding sex altogether will prevent HPV and nearly all cases of cervical cancer. Having few sexual partners and practicing safer sex (use of condoms) will reduce the risk of HPV infection significantly.

Early detection

HPV infection and the early stages of cervical cancer cause no symptoms in most cases and so regular screening checks are crucial (you will not know if you have HPV or pre-cancerous changes or even cancer, until is late in the course of the disease). PAP smears will detect HPV, pre-cancerous changes, and cancer. Women should start having PAP smears once they are sexually active, with the frequency of repeat testing best determined by individual risk profile (something to discuss with your doctor).

Treatment

HPV cannot be treated. Pre-cancerous changes in the cervix can often be treated with simple methods like laser treatment or minor surgical options such as cone biopsy. More advanced cancer usually requires surgery (hysterectomy), often combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Survival rates vary dramatically depending on the stage and the degree of spread.

Cervical cancer can truly be beaten with modern preventive, early-detection, and treatment options.

Here is a valuable info sheet.

About the Author:

Colin was a medical practitioner (GP) from 1988 to 2000. Since then he has worked in the wellness field, designing, developing and delivering various products and services. Out of clinical practice for many years now he no longer practices medicine formally but retains a keen interest in helping people become more-well versions of themselves. He acts as a wellness coach and not as a medical practitioner today. Colin's approach and philosophy is based on empowerment: the notion that people only need a little help to make choices they usually already want to anyway - it's about respect and support rather than instruction or correction. Colin lives at the Vaal Dam with his wife Cathy. He spends time walking mountains, cycling, motorbike riding, kayaking, sailing and always looking for better & better balance.

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