THE CERVIX AND ITS SECRETS
The body of the woman is endowed with an extraordinary capacity: to give life. With this great power and privilege comes a number of challenges to be met: the rules, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause. Since the dawn of time, we study the body of women to understand all the subtleties. And we try in many ways to preserve his health.
The female reproductive system is the most intimate and personal. The cervix is one of them. It is the bulging part that connects the uterus to the woman’s vagina. It has a small opening where the rules flow. It also allows the passage of the baby during childbirth. Unless an abnormality has been reported, women usually have little concern for the health of their cervix. And yet, the consequences of the diseases connected to it can be quite serious. This is the case of cancer of the cervix.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer is the result of infection with a virus: the human papillomavirus (commonly known as HPV ). We currently know about 120 different types of HPV. HPVs known as low-risk can cause genital warts (warts) or plantar warts, among others. High-risk HPV can cause precancerous lesions and possibly cancer of the cervix. Not all women with this type of lesion will develop cancer. However, in women aged 20 to 44, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer.
HOW TO PREVENT CANCER OF THE CERVIX?
THE PAP SMEAR (PAP TEST)
If you are 21 years old or older and you are sexually active, you should ask your doctor for a Pap test. This is a quick and easy test that can be done in a medical clinic. On this occasion, the doctor will take a sample of cells from the cervix. The sample will be sent to the laboratory and examined under a microscope. This test can detect changes in cervical cells that can lead to cancer over a period of years. You should take this test every one to three years, according to previous results and the advice of your doctor. It only takes a few minutes and can save your life. If your Pap test is positive, do not panic! Several options are available to you.
Vaccines to prevent cervical cancer currently exist on the market. These are vaccines that specifically target the types of HPV that cause this type of cancer most often. They are intended for girls and women aged 9 to 45 years old. In no case do they replace the need to pass your Pap test regularly. Recent data shows that these vaccines can be effective even after the beginning of the sex life. You can be infected several times in a lifetime with different types of HPV. The body does not remember being infected and would not develop permanent immunity (protection). That’s why it’s possible to offer them to more women than originally thought.
It is believed that the widespread use of these vaccines in the female population will significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Ask your healthcare provider if such a vaccine would be appropriate for you or your daughter.
As a drug specialist, your pharmacist is well placed to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines and all aspects of their use. Consult it to make an informed decision.
OTHER PREVENTIVE MEASURES
Since HPV spreads through sexual contact, the only way to avoid it completely is to have no sexual relationship … Which, you will agree, is unrealistic. Here are some recommendations to limit your exposure to HPV and reduce your personal risk:
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Limit the number of sexual partners.
- Try to have a monogamous relationship with someone who has had as few partners as possible.
WHO IS AT RISK OF DEVELOPING CERVICAL CANCER?
HPV does not take into account the age, sexual orientation or origin of women to hit. Any sexually active woman (male-female, female-female) can develop cancer of the cervix. However, you are at higher risk if you:
- became sexually active at a young age;
- had multiple partners or only one who had multiple partners;
- have used oral contraceptives (pill) for more than 10 years;
- do not take your Pap test regularly
- have a weakened immune system
- have had multiple term pregnancies (seven or more).
WHEN TO CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR?
Some signs and symptoms may suggest the presence of cervical cancer, including:
- whitish discharge or significant vaginal discharge;
- blood loss between menstrual periods;
- a menstrual flow more abundant than usual;
- pain during sex
- bleeding after sex
- bleeding after menopause
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, or any other unusual symptoms, see your doctor. He will examine you and test you for a diagnosis.
If it turns out that you do have cervical cancer, your doctor and a team of health professionals will guide you through all the steps of the treatment process.
Unlike many other types of cancer, cervical cancer is one that can be prevented. So why not put this question in your list of priorities? Talk about it with your pharmacist and your doctor who will be happy to tell you more. Because in this case as in many others, prevention is by far the best option!