The fight against Cer­vi­cal can­cer

The Manica Post - - Health - Dr Tendai Zuze Health Mat­ters

CER­VI­CAL can­cer is a type of can­cer that oc­curs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (chibereko) that con­nects to the vag­ina. Var­i­ous strains of the hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV), a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion, play a role in caus­ing most cases of cer­vi­cal can­cer. When ex­posed to HPV, a woman’s im­mune sys­tem typ­i­cally pre­vents the virus from do­ing harm. In a small group of women, how­ever, the virus sur­vives for years, con­tribut­ing to the process that causes some cells on the sur­face of the cervix to be­come can­cer cells.

Bot­tom of Form

Early cer­vi­cal can­cer gen­er­ally pro­duces no signs or symp­toms. As the can­cer pro­gresses, the fol­low­ing signs and symp­toms may ap­pear:

◆ Vagi­nal bleed­ing af­ter in­ter­course, be­tween pe­ri­ods or af­ter menopause

◆ Wa­tery, bloody vagi­nal dis­charge that may be heavy and have a foul odour

◆ Pelvic pain or pain dur­ing in­ter­course

Bot­tom of Form Cer­vi­cal can­cer be­gins when healthy cells ac­quire a mu­ta­tion that turns nor­mal cells into ab­nor­mal cells. Healthy cells grow and mul­ti­ply at a set rate, even­tu­ally dy­ing at a set time. Can­cer cells grow and mul­ti­ply out of con­trol, and they don’t die. The ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ab­nor­mal cells form a mass (tu­mour). Can­cer cells in­vade nearby tis­sues and can break off from an ini­tial tu­mour to spread else­where in the body. What causes cer­vi­cal can­cer isn’t clear. How­ever, it’s cer­tain that the sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion called hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV) plays a role. While HPV is a very com­mon virus, most women with HPV never de­velop cer­vi­cal can­cer. This means other risk fac­tors — such as your ge­netic makeup, your en­vi­ron­ment or your life­style choices — also de­ter­mine whether you’ll de­velop cer­vi­cal can­cer.

The type of cell where the ini­tial ge­netic mu­ta­tion oc­curred deter­mines the type of cer­vi­cal can­cer you have which helps de­ter­mine your prog­no­sis and treat­ment. The main types of cer­vi­cal can­cer are: Squa­mous cell car­ci­no­mas. These be­gin in the thin, flat cells (squa­mous cells) that line the outer por­tion of the cervix, which pro­jects into the vag­ina.

Bot­tom of Form

When cer­vi­cal can­cer is de­tected in its ear­li­est stages, treat­ment is more likely to be suc­cess­ful. Most guide­lines sug­gest be­gin­ning screen­ing for cer­vi­cal can­cer and pre­can­cer­ous changes at age 21. Screen­ing for cer­vi­cal can­cer in­cludes:

◆ Pap smear test. Dur­ing a Pap test, your doc­tor scrapes and brushes cells from your cervix and sends the sam­ple to a lab to be ex­am­ined for ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

◆ VIAC. Where the cervix is stained with acetic acid and in­spected for vis­i­ble can­cer­ous changes.

◆ HPV DNA test. If you are age 30 or older, your doc­tor may also use a lab test called the HPV DNA test to de­ter­mine whether you are in­fected with any of the types of HPV that are most likely to lead to cer­vi­cal can­cer.

Bot­tom of Form You may re­duce your risk of cer­vi­cal can­cer if you:

◆ Use a con­dom ev­ery time you have sex

◆ De­lay first in­ter­course

◆ Have fewer sex­ual part­ners

◆ Avoid smok­ing

◆ Get vac­ci­nated against HPV Vac­cines can pro­tect against the most dan­ger­ous types of HPV — the virus that plays a role in caus­ing most cer­vi­cal can­cers. The vac­cine is most ef­fec­tive if given to girls be­fore they be­come sex­u­ally ac­tive. The min­istry of health and child care will very soon em­bark on a pro­gramme to vac­ci­nate girls aged be­tween 10 and 14 years. In the­ory, vac­ci­nat­ing boys against HPV and male cir­cum­ci­sion may also help pro­tect girls from the virus. When di­ag­nosed early, cer­vi­cal can­cer can be cured.

◆ If you are wor­ried about cer­vi­cal can­cer or would like to be screened for the same, please visit your doc­tor.

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