CERVICAL CANCER – A SILENT KILLER
Around 300 000 women, 80% of them in the developing world, die from cervical cancer every year, says Professor Michael Herbst, a health specialist at the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa).
It’s a slow-growing cancer and may not have immediate symptoms but can be picked up with regular pap smears, he says. “It’s much less common in developed countries, such as the US, because of the routine pap smear screening most women get,” he says.
“That is why it’s so important for women to have regular pap smears done,” Herbst adds.
“Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today haven’t had regular pap smears or haven’t followed up on abnormal pap-smear results.”
Herbst adds that cervical cancer tends to appear during midlife – more than half of the women diagnosed are between the ages of 35 and 55. Women should start having pap smears from age 21 – how often depends on their risk factors.