All you need to know about the Prevention and early detection of cancer of the cervix.

Prevention and early detection of cancer of the cervix
Prevention and early detection of cancer of the cervix


Prevention and early detection of cancer of the cervix.

Cancer of the cervix is the most common cancer of the female genital tract in Ghana. It affects woman of all ages but is most common in the 40 – 50 year old age group. Precancerous changes are detected in women 25 years and over.

The good news is that this is one of the few cancers that can actually be prevented! Despite this there are 275,000 deaths from this disease every year, most of these in the developing world mainly because of very low levels of preventive interventions.

What is the cause of cancer of the cervix?

Majority of the cancers are caused by a sexually transmitted virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). These viruses are quite common in the population so it’s easy to contract them through sexual activity.

They do not cause significant symptoms and in a lot of people the body’s immune system is able to clear the virus. However in a proportion of people the HPV remains silently in the cells of the cervix for many years.

As they live in the cells of the cervix they gradually cause changes in the cells that may ultimately develop into cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of a woman’s uterus which opens into the vagina.

Methods of preventing cancer of the cervix

Methods of prevention for cervical cancer have developed over the years and here are the main methods:

1. Avoid HPV infection
2. Immunization against HPV infection
3. Routine screening for HPV and precancerous changes of the cervix
1. Avoid HPV infection
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the known cause of cervical cancer in the majority of cases. It is a sexually transmitted virus that is rather common in the general population.
a. Avoid early sexual initiation.
b. Avoid high risk sexual behavior.
c. Do not smoke.
d. Use condoms.

2. Immunization against HPV infection

There are now vaccines available to protect against some HPV infections. These vaccines need to be administered before the person is exposed to the HPV virus. These vaccines have been found to be very effective and protect against the most common cancer causing HPV types. There are generally two target groups for the vaccinations. The first group is girls from 9 to 12 years. These are to have routine vaccinations for HPV. The second group is the 13 to 26 year olds who missed the opportunity at this age and desire to have ‘catch-up’ vaccinations

3. Routine screening for HPV and precancerous changes

This can take the form of inspection of the cervix for early lesions and for precancerous changes and also tests to detect HPV. These tests include HPV testing, PAP smear VIA etc. the PAP smear sample and VIA is taken by the health worker and the HPV sample is taken by the client herself in a very simple way.

Summary of the Preventing Cervical cancer methods per age group:
A. Aged 9-12 years – Immunization against HPV
B. Aged 21 years and over – PAP smear screening
C. Aged 30 years and over – HPV screening or PAP smear.

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