Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix is part that connects the vagina to the lower part of a woman’s uterus.
This cancer begins when healthy cells in the cervix mutate (or develop changes). With time, these cells multiply out of control and they do not die unlike healthy cells. When the abnormal cells accumulate, they form a tumor.
What causes it?
It is still unclear what causes cervical cancer. It has, however, been confirmed that Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common STI, leads to cervical cancer.
However, there are several factors that increase the risk of getting cervical cancer.
Risk factors include:
- Having many sexual partners - The higher your number of sexual partners — and the greater your partner's number of sexual partners — the greater your chance of getting HPV.
- Early sexual activity - Having sex at an early age increases your risk of HPV.
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - Having other STIs — such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS — increases your risk of HPV.
- A weakened immune system - You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV.
- Smoking - Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
What are the first signs?
In its early-stage, cervical cancer will likely show no signs or symptoms. These are evident as times passes.
Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a bad smell
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
How can it be prevented?
To reduce your risk of cervical cancer:
- Get the HPV vaccine - The HPV vaccine may reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.
- Get Pap Smear tests - Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer.
- Practice safe sex - Reduce your risk of cervical cancer by taking measures to prevent STI. You can do this by using a condom every time you have sex and/or limiting the number of sexual partners you have.
- Quit smoking - If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you quit.
When should I see a doctor?
It is advisable that you see a doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms that are of concern. However, routine tests are important as they help with early detection. Visit your nearest Marie Stopes Clinic for cervical cancer screening. To locate a clinic near you, click here. You can also visit your nearest government hospital for screening services.