january is the cervical cancer awareness month. It is a perfect time to reflect on the groundbreaking advancements that have been made in the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. A diagnosis of cervical cancer was once a death sentence. Thanks to the cancer awareness campaigns and initiatives to advanced cancer treatments done in our country, it is now a preventable and treatble disease. Today no woman needs to die from this this disease.
Women don’t have to die from cervical cancer, unfortunately, some still do.
Cervical cancer still remains the leading cause of deaths among women in Tanzania and according to the recent Center of disesases control (CDC) report, it warns thousands of Tanzanian women are on the verge to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in few years to come where lack of adequate information on cervical cancer awareness among these women seems to be the leading factor.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is the type of cancer that starts and grows in cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. This type of cancer claims lives of women than any type of cancer in which women stand the risks. Cervical cancer, however, if detected early has a very high cure rate. Cervical cancer is proved to be one of the most preventable types of cancer. Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of virus which are known to cause cervical cancer, is an effective preventive measure.
Due to the fact that cervical cancer is gynaecoligical type of cancer, the main risk factor for it is being a woman. Cervical cancer tends to occur mainly during midlife. More than half of women diagnosed with this disease are from 30s to 50s. It also rarely affects girls in 20s and approximately 20 per cent of diagnoses are made in wome older than 65.
However, apart from gender, there are other risk factors for the disease, of which some can be managed while some cannot.
These risk factors are: tobacco smoking, HIV infection, past or recurrent chlaymidia infection, overweight, poverty and family history of cervical cancer.
Possible symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding such as, bleeding between regular menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, bleeding after douching, bleeding after pelvic exam and bleeding after menopause.
Women are also advised to pay attention on other symptoms including: pelvic pain which is not related to menstrual cycle, heavy or unusual discharge that may be watery, thick and possibly have a foul odour, increased urinary frequency and pain during urination.
I urge all women to take advantage of the advancements made in cervical health. Screenings are essential every two to three years if you are 21 years old, and the HPV vaccine is highly recommend if you are between 9 and 14 years old.
I also strongly advise every woman to find the access in getting cervical cancer information and talk to her health care proffesional.
The author is the medical doctor based in Dar es Salaam.