Those at risk of cervical cancer

If you are a woman and have not had sex before or you have one sexual partner, then you don’t have to worry about cervical cancer. Experts say those at the risk of cervical cancer are women who have sexual contacts very early, women who started bearing children very early and women with multiple sexual partners.

Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the part of the womb (i.e the uterus in the female anatomy.) It is the part of the womb before the neck of the womb. Shade Samuel-George, a midwife practitioner with Tabitha Women Centre says what the cause of cervical cancer is. “The cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). And is a virus that is transmitted from a man to a woman. Ideally, it will take a man to sleep with 18 women to contract it; it will take a woman to sleep with two men to get it. It is a virus that attaches itself and starts reproducing to cancerous cells”. Samuel George explains.

Talking on women who are at risk of contracting the virus, Dr Ebele Mgbor of Medicaid Radio diagnostic centre says “There is a high risk with women that have first sexual contact very early. Women who start bearing children very early. Women with multiple sexual partners are at high risk of cervical cancer.”

Dr Mgbor however says there are investigations that can give us an indication somebody’s cervix is going to progress to cancer. And there is vaccination against that.  So that is a very big breakthrough.

To detect if a woman has cervical cancer Dr Mgbor says there is a test called Pap smear or cervical smear. “During the test we take some cells from the person’s cervix. We put it on the slide and check it through the microscope. If there are changes in the cells of the womans cervix that can progress to cancer that way we can catch the cancer before it actually begins.” Mgbor explains.

Shade Samuel-George on the other hand says cervical cancer has been on the increase because women are not doing there Pap smear. “Have your pap smear once a year from the ages of 25 and above. Once you are sexually active, you should have your pap smear done. Three consecutive Pap smear, then it can be spaced out to once every three years subsequently.” Samuel-Goerge explains.

Health experts say one way to avoid cervical cancer is to have a pap smear. Samuel George explains further that “if you can, and you are between the ages of 13 and 25 and you are not sexually active you can’t have the Human Papilloma Virus.  But then, you can take the vaccines. It is in three doses, and should be available in many practitioner centres now in Nigeria.”Samuel George says.

Waiting to have sex until you are older can help you avoid HPV. It also helps to limit your number of sexual partners and to avoid having sex with someone who has had many other sexual partners. The virus most often spreads between a man and a woman.

Samuel George says cervical cancer is unlike many cancers because it has minimal symptoms.HPV does not always cause warts or any other symptoms; even someone infected with HPV for years may have no symptoms. Someone can have the virus and pass it on without knowing it.

However, Samuel-George says if cervical cancer is caught on time, they would have picked up the abnormal cells during the Pap smear. “If the abnormal cells are minimal, it can be treated doing a laparoscopy surgery where we take out the abnormal cells.  We take it to the laboratory and see how far the cancer has gone.  Some treatments are laser, some radiations and some you may have to do chemotherapy. Depends on the intensity. But the idea is to catch it fast.” Samuel-George emphasised.