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June 29, 2010

Hot GirlTalk Topic: What Every Woman Should Know about Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women. FN gives you the 411 on this (literal) lady killer. By Ana Santos
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cervical_cancer_mother_daughter.jpgIn the Philippines, 10 Filipinas die of cervical cancer every day, making it the second most common cancer affecting females, next only to breast cancer. Worldwide, 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths attributed to cervical cancer are reported each year. As we learn more about this illness, more and more women are becoming interested in learning what they can about it, especially if they are themselves at risk or know someone whose life has been touched by cervical cancer. We’ve seen this in the activity on our own GirlTalk forums, where there are threads devoted to discussing cervical cancer and cervical cancer vaccines.

However, this cancer is preventable and treatable, especially if diagnosed early. Here’s a quick guide on the essential things you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones.  

 

[Click here to discuss cervical cancer on the GirlTalk forums]



WHAT CAUSES CERVICAL CANCER?

Unlike other cancers whose origins or causes are unclear, the cause of cervical cancer (the cervix is the lower narrow part of the uterus or the womb) has been traced to the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV.

According to Dr. Cecilia Llave, M.D., PhD, the program director of the Cancer Institute at the University of the Philippines-PGH, “It has been found that 99.7 percent of women with cervical cancer are also positive for HPV. For a woman to have cervical cancer, she must have been consistently and persistently infected by HPV, making HPV the necessary cause of cervical cancer.”

Half of cervical cancer cases occur in women between the ages of 35 and 55.

(Photo by ssdg4773 via sxc.hu. All photos used are for illustrative purposes only.)



cervical_cancer_silhouette.jpgHOW MANY TYPES OF HPV ARE THERE?

According to Dr. Efren Domingo, secretary general of the Asia Oceania Research Organization in Genital Infections and Neoplasia and the organization’s president in the Philippines, there are over 100 different types of HPV.

“HPV is the one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. An estimated 50 percent of sexually-active people will get genital HPV infection in their lifetime. Most are relatively harmless and, in most cases, are spontaneously cleared by the body’s immune system.”


WHICH HPVS ARE HIGH-RISK AND WHICH ARE LOW-RISK?

There are, however, certain types of HPV that lead to cancer.

Says Domingo: “HPV 6 and 11 are called ‘low-risk’ types. They cause abnormal cervical changes that show up in pap smear results and cause 90 percent of genital warts.

HPV 16 and 18 are ‘high-risk’ types and cause cervical cancer and abnormal cervical changes that sometimes lead to cancer. Seventy percent of cervical cancer cases are linked to HPV 16 and 18.”
 
It is estimated that 50 to 80 percent of women will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime. Studies show that, of these, up to half will be infected with a high-risk HPV type.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER?

Common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
  • watery or bloody vaginal discharge with a foul odor
  • pelvic pain during intercourse


However, some cases of HPV are asymptomatic. It is best to have routine pap tests within three years of when you begin having sex or at age 21, whichever comes first.

[Need an OB-GYN? Check out FN's guide to choosing the right OB-GYN for you.]



WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT MYSELF FROM BEING EXPOSED TO HIGH-RISK FACTORS?

Here are some tips for reducing the likelihood of your contracting a high-risk HPV type.

  • Avoid smoking.


The exact linkage between smoking and cervical cancer is not yet known, but smoking increases risk of precancerous changes we as well as cancer of the cervix.
 

  • Be faithful.


The greater your number of sex partners, the more your partner’s number of sex partners, the greater your chance of acquiring HPV.

  • Practice safer sex.


Use condoms correctly and consistently and for each type of sex: anal, oral, or vaginal.

  • Abstain from sex.


Even better than sticking to one sexual partner or practicing safe sex is having none at all. So if you’re of two minds about entering a casual relationship, our advice is to just say no.

  • Delay first intercourse.


Having sex before the age of 18 increases your risk of HPV. Immature cells are more susceptible to pre-cancerous changes that HPV can cause.


(Photo by vancity197 via sxc.hu)



HOW DO HPV VACCINES WORK?

HPV vaccines cause the body to develop antibodies against HPV and protect it against infection. HPV vaccines have been seen to provide 70 to 80 percent protection against cervical cancers.

[Click here to discuss cervical cancer vaccines on the GirlTalk forums]


Cervical cancer vaccines mostly work to protect against high-risk HPVs. Basically, there are two vaccines currently available: Cervarix and Gardasil. Cervarix provides protection against the high-risk HPVs 16 and 18 and is generally cheaper than Gardasil. However, Gardasil provides protection against HPVs 6 and 11 as well as 16 and 18. For more details, please see the comparison chart below:


cervical_vaccine_guide.png



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CERVICAL CANCER VACCINES:

Below are some common inquiries about getting yourself or your daughter vaccinated for cervical cancer:

 
What if I miss my second or third dose?

There is no need to restart the vaccine series due to missed doses. If you miss the second dose, you may get the shot as soon as you remember; you would then get your third dose after 12 weeks. If you miss the third dose, you may get the shot as soon as possible.

It is important to get all three doses to ensure maximum effectiveness.


Do we have to be screened prior to vaccination?

There is no recommended screening method for HPV prior to vaccination at the moment.


Should I still continue regular screening and testing even after I have been vaccinated?

Yes. Cervical cancer screening should still continue for women, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated.

[Click here to find out how to get tested for a sexually transmitted infection]



For more information on cervical cancer, visit the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network (CECAP) website at www.cecaphil.org.

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  • prettylass8831 Jun 29 2010 @ 09:42am Report Abuse
       
    This is such an informative article. Women should always visit their OB Gyne and have the necessary immunizations such as this one for cervical cancer.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • chinky_baguette Jun 29 2010 @ 10:01am Report Abuse
       
    We should really make our society aware about cervical cancer. This one really helps a lot on giving the information that we need.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • tinapay Jun 29 2010 @ 10:31am Report Abuse
       
    very informative. i didn't know there were two types of vaccination. my mom died of cervical cancer 11 years ago at age 50. because of that, my sisters and i get vaccinated already. though i don't know which type was injected at me.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • cheska_07 Jun 30 2010 @ 02:40am Report Abuse
       
    after my mom survived it, i was advised to have the vaccination.I had the cervarix:)
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Rhain Jul 01 2010 @ 02:41pm Report Abuse
       
    A very alarming fact!!! Everyday, ten Filipino women die from cervical cancer. Out of 83% v*g*n*l infection of women, 62% are infected because of POOR QUALITY SANITARY NAPKIN. Every woman is at risk. Finally.. an AMAZING SANITARY NAPKIN (that relieves: UTI, DYSMENORRHEA, INFLAMMATION, VAGINAL PROBLEMS, BACTERIAL INFECTION, MENSTRUAL ODOR, FATIGUE & STRESS, HEMORRHOIDS, URINARY INCONTINENCE, helps prevent CERVICAL CANCER and PROSTATE CANCER-men) was introduced to me.. call/text 09228723274 if your interested.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • rodawin Jul 02 2010 @ 04:03pm Report Abuse
       
    thank you for sharing this information.every woman should be aware and concerned about cervical cancer. I suggest to have an annual pap-smear and vaccine.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • shirleylim26 Jul 03 2010 @ 03:23pm Report Abuse
       
    very informative
    Last modified A long time ago
  • damselflypoet Jul 03 2010 @ 07:58pm Report Abuse
       
    I wish to get shots for me and mom. I wanna know how much they cost talaga. hehe


    Last modified A long time ago
  • b13wbax Jul 04 2010 @ 06:06pm Report Abuse
       
    How much does the vaccination for cervical cancer cost? I wanna spend for my sisters, my mom and myself just to be safe and as to prevent acquaring such illness.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • summerinparis Jul 05 2010 @ 07:37pm Report Abuse
       
    cervical cancer scares me.i wanted to get a shot against this disease,that is the only way to make sure.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Caramel Jul 14 2010 @ 08:14am Report Abuse
       
    I'm happy to complete all of my shots :) Every woman and I mean EVERY woman should get vaccinated.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • marchineness09 Jul 18 2010 @ 08:50pm Report Abuse
       
    This is scary because if you're not monitoring your health regularly chances are it might give you a slip. So we have to take precautions and see our doctor regularly and live a healthy life.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Mhela Jul 20 2010 @ 09:53pm Report Abuse
       
    yup I agree on this and women with very active sex life style should have a ruotine check-up for more immediate prevention and vaccination also.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • ella_gurl Jul 22 2010 @ 09:02pm Report Abuse
       
    Such a scary disease but only so few are aware of. Hoping for more information dissemination like this. Thanks for the article.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Pretty Mom Aug 14 2010 @ 12:45am Report Abuse
       
    Always make sure you know what to be vaccinated...Gardasil has the most complete strain vs Cervarix. So you might as well not compromise yourself.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • kityn26 Oct 28 2010 @ 03:50pm Report Abuse
       
    i wonder y ndi cya mging free para s hindi maka-afford ng vaccine, ang mhal kc e...esp dun s mga mhihirap lng n tao. o khit discount man lng. sana magkrun din ng ganung programa ang gobyerno, un bng tipong "oplan iwas cervical kanser"...wla lng naisip ko lng..
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Purple Pomelo Nov 02 2010 @ 05:27pm Report Abuse
       
    I completed 3 shots a year ago. It costs me 2800 pesos per shot.
    Last modified A long time ago
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Ana Santos
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Ana is a journalist by education and now, after leaving the corporate world, by profession. She is also a sexual health advocate as a matter of choice and passion... Read more...
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