How much do you know about Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer ranks as the third leading cause of female cancer deaths among women in Malaysia.
Most of the cervical cancer cases are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
A research conducted by University Sains Malaysia showed that the majority of women in Malaysia still have poor knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer, similar to other countries.
In Malaysia, Cervical cancer ranks as the third leading cause of female cancer among women in which about 1,682 new cervical cases are diagnosed and about 944 deaths occur annually in 2018 (Bruni et al. 2019).
Cervical cancer starts in a woman’s cervix. It occurs due to the cells of the cervix growing abnormally.
This will invade other tissues around the cervix and organs such as the liver or lungs. The risk of developing abnormal cells is associated with infection of human papillomavirus (HPV). The early symptoms of cervical cancer are abnormal menstruation, irregular menstruation, heavy menstruation, weight loss, pelvic pain, and vaginal discomfort.
What is HPV?
HPV is a group of viruses that cause cervical cancer. HPV is spread through sexual contact. There is evidence that HPV is a factor for cancer anus, vulva, vagina and penis. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for about 70% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide (Muñoz et al. 2004). Pap smear test is used for early detection of cervical cancer before the development of HPV vaccine in Malaysia. Cervical cancer caused by high-risk oncogenic HPV types 16 and 18 can be prevented by HPV vaccine.
Cervical cancer screening program in Malaysia had failed to accomplish its target of three yearly screening of 40% of women aged 20-65. The performance of the screening program is poor and it caused considerable frustration within the Ministry of Health (Othman 2003).
Symptoms of Cervical cancer
Precancerous changes in cervical cells rarely cause symptoms. The only way to know if there are abnormal cells that may develop into cancer is to have a cervical screening test. If early cell changes develop into cervical cancer, the most common signs include:
vaginal bleeding between periods
menstrual bleeding that is longer or heavier than usual
pain during intercourse
bleeding after intercourse
a change in your vaginal discharge such as more discharge or it may have a strong or unusual colour or smell
vaginal bleeding after menopause.
These symptoms can be caused by other conditions but if you are worried or symptoms persist, contact your doctor. This is important for anyone with a cervix, whether you are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Diagnosing Cervical Cancer
The early detection of cervical cancer is crucial for effective treatment and improved outcomes. Some recommended screening tests include:
Pap test (Pap smear): A test that collects cells from the cervix to look for abnormal changes that may be indicative of cervical cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) test: A test that detects the presence of the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer.
It is recommended for women to get regular Pap and/or HPV tests starting at age 21, or earlier if they have certain risk factors. Additionally, getting vaccinated against HPV can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer. Women should talk to their healthcare provider about the best screening plan for them.
Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in the World: read more
Against which human papillomavirus types shall we vaccinate and screen? : Read More
Othman, N.H. 2003. Cancer of the cervix - from bleak past to bright future; A review, with an emphasis on cancer of the cervix in Malaysia: Read More