May is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. What must one know about this disease?
C – The affected organ in cervical cancer is the cervix. This is not located in the cervical area of the spine (the neck area), but the lower third portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The narrow opening referred to as the cervical os closes to help keep the fetus in the uterus until birth.
E – Epithelium. This is the thin layer of cells on the surface of the cervix. The changes in these cells are monitored when one undergoes a Pap smear. It is important to detect early changes to the cervical cells which may lead to cancer, so a Pap smear is a very important diagnostic tool.
R – Rich less affected. Most people who die of the disease come from the lower income classes. This is because those from affluent societies have better access to screening tests.
V – Virus. The causative agent of cervical cancer, called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is one of the most common sexually transmitted viruses in the world.
I – Intercourse. During unprotected intercourse, the virus may be transmitted. Thus, sexual promiscuity is a risk factor for the development of cervical cancer.
C – Common. Cervical cancer is second most common cancer in women. It affects about 16 per 100,000 women per year and kills about 9 per 100,000 per year. Approximately 80% of cervical cancers occur in developing countries.
A – Acetic acid. Visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid allows doctors to directly see lesions and other changes in the cervix. The health practitioner simply swabs acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, on the cervix and looks for areas that change color. This is a very important procedure for screening among those who have limited access to a Pap smear.
L – Lugol’s iodine. Although this reagent, together with acetic acid, is less specific than Pap smear in the detection of cervical cancer, it is more sensitive. This means that more false positive results may come out which can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Public health workers, however, believe that the risk for overtreatment is acceptable, considering the greater risk of dying from the disease.
C -Colposcopy. If the Pap smear result is found to be abnormal, a physician may order this test for better visualization of the cervix. He or she may also do a biopsy for suspicious lesions.
A – Anemia. Iron deficiency and tumor bleeding are common causes of anemia in cervical cancer. The presence of anemia is a negative prognostic factor, and its control and treatment improves disease prognosis.
N – Nutrition. Although some studies on cervical disease and diet suggest that intake of dark green and yellow vegetables, beta-carotene, and vitamins C, D, and E can prevent cervical cancer, these studies are still inconclusive. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is immunization with human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix) prevents the two HPV types, 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) prevents HPV 16, 18, 6, and 11. Gardasil prevents genital warts and also protects against cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva. Both vaccines are administered in 3 doses.
C – Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used to reduce tumor growth during the later stages of cervical cancer. Chemotherapy medicines may be taken by mouth (orally) or injected into a vein (intravenous, or IV).
E – Eva Peron. The second wife of former Argentina President Juan Peron died of cervical cancer. Evita, as she is more popularly known, was the first Argentine to undergo chemotherapy for the illness.
R – Radiation therapy. Radiation treatment is given during the early stages of cervical cancer. It is given as external beam radiotherapy to the pelvis, or via internal radiation or brachytherapy.
- What to Do After an Abnormal Pap Test (everydayhealth.com)
- The Importance of a Yearly Pap Smear (everydayhealth.com)
- Cancer of the Cervix (markseigel.com)
- Is the HPV Vaccine Safe? (everydayhealth.com)
- Regular Pap Smear Boosts Cervical Cancer Survival: Study (news.health.com)
- Everything You Need to Know about the New Cervical Cancer Screening Guides (blogher.com)