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Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Introduction:

The cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and the uterus, is where cervical cancer begins to grow in women. A common virus spread through sexual contact, the human papillomavirus (HPV), is linked to nearly all cases (99%) of cervical cancer. Although the majority of HPV infections go away without symptoms, persistent infections in women can result in cervical cancer.

In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, cervical cancer is the sixth most common cancer among women. This illness still presents a serious threat to public health, leading to a high number of diagnoses and deaths.

January is recognized as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of cervical cancer and promote HPV vaccination. The bold objective of eliminating cervical cancer in a few generations is the main focus this year.

Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers when caught early and treated appropriately. Appropriate therapy and palliative care greatly enhance the prognosis, even in advanced stages. By taking a multifaceted approach that includes screening, prevention, and treatment, the goal is to eradicate cervical cancer as a threat to public health within a few generations.

Cervical cancer was once a major cause of cancer-related deaths among American women; however, screening and preventive initiatives have greatly lessened its impact. However, the National Cancer Institute projects that in 2023, 13,960 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, with 4,310 expected deaths. This is despite these advancements in the field.

Improving prevention and screening is still essential to ending cervical cancer. Since almost all cases are caused by HPV infection, the majority of cases could be avoided with vaccines meant to fend off the virus. Furthermore, routine Pap tests are crucial for identifying and treating the condition when it is still in the precancerous stage.

One of the many malignancies brought on by harmful infections like bacteria, viruses, and parasites is cervical cancer. Because of the serious health risks associated with these infections, early detection and preventive measures are crucial.

What is the theme for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in 2024?

“Learn, Prevent, Screen” is the theme for Cervical Health Awareness Month in 2024. The theme highlights the need to provide people with information about reducing their risk of cervical cancer and the life-saving value of routine screenings.

Every year, Cervical Health Awareness Month’s themes change.

  • In 2023, the theme was Ending Cervical Cancer Within a Few Generations for Cervical Health Awareness Month.
  • In 2022, the theme was eradicating cervical cancer for Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Why is awareness of cervical cancer necessary?

A condition known as cervical cancer occurs when there is an abnormal growth or proliferation of the cells lining the lower part of the uterus or the cervix, which is the part that connects the uterus and the vagina. About 90% of cases of cervical cancer are related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Nearly 90% of newly reported cases and fatalities occurred in low- and middle-income countries. High-income countries have awareness campaigns in place to help girls (typically aged 9–14) receive the HPV vaccination in addition to routine screenings for the identification and treatment of precancerous lesions in women.

In low- and middle-income nations, these preventive measures are scarce, and cervical cancer is not identified until the disease has advanced in symptoms. Thus, it is important to raise awareness of cervical cancer among women, particularly in low- and middle-income nations, about the disease’s risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures. It is imperative to raise awareness regarding the availability of the HPV vaccine and the need for routine cervical cancer screenings.

What is the significance of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month?

Regular cervical screening can aid in the prevention of cervical cancer, both locally and non-locally. Cervical cancer has been successfully prevented in communities through screening since the 1960s. In comparison to women who had not been screened in five years, subjects who had three-yearly screenings avoided 83% of non-localized cancers and 48% of stage I cancers.

Women who attended screenings frequently (at least two screenings spaced at least ten months apart) had a 90% lower risk of non-localized cervical cancer and a 57% lower risk of stage I cervical cancer when compared to women who missed five years of screenings.

What are the preventive measures for cervical cancer in women?

Regular Pap tests and human papillomavirus (HPV) tests to detect and treat any precancerous lesions can help prevent cervical cancer. Moreover, getting the HPV vaccine can help prevent it.

The FDA has approved Gardasil, an HPV vaccine, for use in preventing HPV-related cervical cancer in individuals between the ages of 9 and 45. In order to prevent infection from HPV16, HPV18, and five additional types of HPV linked to cancer, Gardasil 9 is available in the United States. Prior to Cervarix and the first Gardasil, there were two more vaccines accessible in the US. However, these two are no longer accessible in the US due to the development of newer vaccinations. Outside of the US, these vaccinations might still be in use, though.

As part of their regular immunization schedule, HPV vaccination is advised for all adolescents to help prevent cervical cancer. It can be started as early as age 9. Consult our healthcare provider about the recommended vaccination schedule, as it may change depending on a number of variables such as age, gender, and the availability of vaccines. Find out more about the HPV vaccine and the cervical cancer prevention guidelines recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

People can also take the following additional steps to help prevent cervical cancer:

  • Postponing having a sexual relationship until one is at least a teenager
  • Restricting the number of intimate partners
  • Utilizing dental dams and condoms to have safer sexual encounters
  • Avoiding sexual activity with individuals who have had multiple partners
  • Avoiding having sexual relationships with those who have genital warts or who exhibit other symptoms
  • Giving up smoking

    Cervical cancer
    Cervical cancer

Information on cervical cancer screening

Prior to the onset of cancer signs or symptoms, screening is used to find precancerous changes or early cancers. Tests that can be used to screen a person for particular types of cancer before symptoms or signs appear have been developed by scientists and are still being developed. The main objectives of cancer screening are:

  • Lower the number of cancer-related deaths or do away with cancer altogether
  • A decrease in the number of people who get cancer
  • Study up on the fundamentals of cancer screening.

Cervical cancer can be detected through the use of the following procedures and tests:

HPV examination

The same sample of cells taken from the cervix used for the Pap test is used for this test. The HPV strains most frequently associated with cervical cancer are tested for in this sample. Testing for HPV can be done separately or in conjunction with a Pap test. An individual may also choose to obtain a sample of cells from the vagina on their own for use in this test.

Pap test

The most popular test for identifying early cellular alterations that may result in cervical cancer has been the Pap test. Another name for this test is a pap smear. Obtaining a cervix cell sample is necessary for a Pap test. As part of a gynecologic examination, it is frequently performed concurrently with a bimanual pelvic exam. It is possible to combine an HPV test with a Pap test.

Using acetic acid for visual inspection (VIA). VIA is a screening test that can be performed using only a few simple tools and your eyes. White vinegar is diluted and applied to the cervix during VIA. Next, the medical professional examines the cervix, which turns white when it comes into contact with vinegar, for any anomalies. In areas with restricted access to healthcare, this screening test is very helpful.

Cervical cancer screening can be performed during a visit with a gynecologic specialist or primary care physician. There may be free or inexpensive screening available in some places.

What makes the HPV vaccine crucial?

The common virus known as genital HPV is spread from person to person during sexual activity by direct skin-to-skin contact. Though most sexually active people are unaware of it, most will get HPV at some point in their lives. The peak years for HPV infection are late adolescence and early adulthood. Men and women can contract any one of about 40 different types of HPV from their genital areas. The majority of HPV strains have no symptoms and disappear on their own. However, some varieties can result in other uncommon cancers such as anus, penis, vaginal, vulva, and oropharyngeal cancers, as well as cervical cancer in females. 

Genital warts, which affect both men and women, are caused by other forms of HPV. The risk of genital warts is not fatal. However, they can be extremely uncomfortable to treat, and they can lead to emotional stress. In the United States, approximately 12,000 women receive a cervical cancer diagnosis each year, and 4,000 of them pass away from the illness. In the United States, 1% of sexually active adults have genital warts that are visible at any given time.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Cervical Cancer

What is cervical cancer?

Cancer that originates in a woman’s cervix is known as cervical cancer. The uterus’s entrance is known as the cervix. It joins the uterus (womb) and vagina (birth canal). Usually, dysplasia, or abnormalities in the cervix’s cell structure, is the first sign of cervical cancer. If discovered early enough, these aberrant cells can be removed to stop cancer.

What are the signs of cervical cancer?

It is common for cervical cancer to show no symptoms in its early stages. A woman’s chances of developing symptoms increase with the length of time she has cervical cancer without treatment. The following are a few signs of cervical cancer in its later stages:

  • Severe vaginal discharge or bleeding (more than usual)
  • Bleeding following a pelvic exam, after sex, or in between periods
  • Pain when urinating or having sex

Speak with our healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms. The only way to be certain about the cause of these symptoms is to check with our healthcare provider. There may be other factors at play.

What are some ways that I can reduce my risk of cervical cancer?

Certain risk factors, such as age, are uncontrollable, while others are. Here are some strategies to reduce or completely avoid the risk of cervical cancer:

  • Obtain Vaccinations

The HPV vaccine offers protection against the HPV strains that are most frequently linked to cervical cancer. For both men and women, it is advised. The HPV vaccine protects against vulvar, vaginal, and cervical cancer in women. Moreover, it guards against anus, mouth, and throat cancer. The HPV vaccine protects men against cancers of the mouth, throat, anus, and penis.

  • Get Examined

Regular screening tests can help prevent or detect cervical cancer early. Many people missed their appointment for a cervical cancer screening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do not wait to get screened for cervical cancer if it is due. As soon as you can, give your healthcare provider a call to make an appointment. Give your healthcare provider a call as soon as you notice any symptoms of cervical cancer.

For a cervical cancer screening, schedule frequent visits with our healthcare provider. If the results of your screening are abnormal, consult our provider again.

What distinguishes a Pap test from a pelvic exam?

Because pelvic exams and pap tests are typically performed at the same time, many people mistakenly associate them. A pelvic exam involves the medical professional feeling the reproductive organs. Cervical cancer cannot be detected early by a pelvic exam, although it might aid in the detection of diseases affecting the female organs. It requires a screening test to accomplish that.

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