Health: What you need to know about cervical cancer – Dr. Kim Mangoa

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Cervical cancer. Image from http://www.medicinenet.com/cervical_cancer_pictures_slideshow/article.htm

For a while now cancer has been one of the most feared diseases that one can have. HIV was once upon a time a serious threat but cancer seems to have overtaken it. A few years back I lost a loved one to cervical cancer and to my horror this type of cancer has increasingly been on the rise.

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the entrance of to the womb (uterus). The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow pear-shaped organ that is located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body. With many assumptions about cervical cancer, I interviewed one of our own doctors and got better insight into the disease.

Whenever we get certain symptoms we tend to assume that we know the cause and ignore. But keep in mind any odd signs and symptoms can seem so small but should cause an alarm. Dr. Mangoa gave the following symptoms as red flags.

Cervical cancer. Image from http://www.medicinenet.com/cervical_cancer_pictures_slideshow/article.htm
Cervical cancer. Image from http://www.medicinenet.com/cervical_cancer_pictures_slideshow/article.htm

1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is not a light matter. You may assume that it’s your periods or have other suspicions but abnormal bleeding is not normal regardless of whatever age you are. Any bleeding that occurs between periods, during sex or menopause or is too heavy is a cause for alarm.

2. Pain during sexual intercourse is also a symptom that should lead you to a doctor, particularly a gynecologist; sex should be pleasurable and not painful.

3. A foul smelling vaginal discharge is also another sign that should raise an eyebrow. This is usually the nature of the infection and the discharge may either be pale, watery, brown and tinged with blood.

4. There may be difficulty urinating or defecating due to obstruction.

5. There may be sudden weight loss that is not to be ignored as this may mean the cancer is already overwhelming your immune system

The problem with cancer is that if it is not discovered early enough it then progresses and destroys other organs. Early diagnosis is very important and can save you, to diagnose cervical cancer you should schedule a pap smear. In case the growth is big a biopsy is taken (sample of the abnormal tissue is taken).

If the results are positive for cervical cancer, treatment could be surgical. If the cancer is found earlier there would be a local excision or removal of the uterus together with the cervix. To be sure that the cancer cells are not present it is advisable that radiotherapy is added on as well as chemotherapy for a less risk of the cancer returning.

Dr. Mangoa emphasized that prevention is better than cure. Kenya is now offering vaccinations for cervical cancer and in October there are hospitals such as The Kenyatta National Hospital that offer free pap smears and general checkups.

“So it true that having multiple sexual partners may increase the risk of getting cervical cancer?” I asked.

According to Dr. Mangoa, delaying first sexual experience and having few partners reduces the risk of Human papilloma Virus which is what causes the cancer. There is nothing proven when it comes to diet apart from the vaccine and having fewer sex partners also decreases the risk. Condoms do stop the transmission of HPV as well. The best prevention would be to go for a HPV vaccination, have annual pap smears and be constant with one sexual partner. At the end of the day, keep safe, eat healthy, do things to better your health and strengthen your immunity.

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