Cervical Cancer

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24th November 2017
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Overview

Each year, January is marked as the Cervical Health Awareness Month by the United States Congress who estimated 12,000 diagnoses of cervical cancer in the U.S annually. However, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today. Early detection and treatment of abnormal cell changes that occur in the cervix can prevent most cases of cervical cancers. Human papillomavirus, which is also known as HPV, commonly causes these cell mutation. Regular testing is encouraged in sexually active individuals to maintain cervical health.

At early stage of cervical cancer, it can be asymptomatic. Advanced cervical cancer may lead to abnormal bleeding or discharge, for instance, bleeding after sexual intercourse.

What is HPV?

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some types of HPV such as HPV type 6 and 11 can cause genital warts, while some other different types such as HPV type 16 & 18 can cause cervical cell changes that are linked to cervical cancer if early detection is failed. At least 40 types of HPV are found to infect genital areas of males and females as well as sexual intercouse routes including genital-to-anal and genital-to-oral contacts. Although HPV infections is usually harmless and most are cleared naturally within 1 to 2 years and yet, if it does not, the risk of cervical cancer development is increased over time.

Screening Tests

In addition to HPV infections, some other factors can increase the chance of cervical cancer, for example, HIV-infection, multiple sexual partners, long term hormonal contraceptives (> 5 years) and having given birth to three or more children. [2] Hence, sexually active individuals are recommended to have tests done on regular basis.

  • Pap test (or pap smear)
    Recommended for women aged 21-65 years old. The test looks for precancers, or in other words, cell changes on the cervix that might cause cervical cancer if it is not followed up appropriately. If your pap test result is normal, you are advisable to repeat the test every three years.
  • HPV DNA test
    Looks for the casual virus that cause cell changes on the cervix. The test is recommended along with pap test for women aged 30 years old and above. If your test result is normal, you may repeat HPV DNA test in five years.

HPV Vaccines

HPV vaccines function to prevent infection from both high risk HPV types that cause cervical cancer and low risk types that result in genital warts. Gardasil®️ and Cervarix®️ are currently available HPV vaccines. Healthcare professionals suggest that all females ages 9 to 26 should be vaccinated for early protection.

Gardasil®️ Cervarix®️
Gender (FDA-approved) Female and male Female only
HPV types Type 6, 11, 16 & 18 Type 16 & 18
Suitable age (years old) 9 to 26 10 to 25
Contraindication(s)
  • Pregnant
  • History of any life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Moderate to severe illness
Dosing schedule 0, 2, 6 months 0, 1, 6 months

 

Tested in thousands of people in many coutries, both vaccines have proven to be safe and well tolerated; the most common side effect has been soreness at the injection site.

References