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Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Labib Riachi - Consultant Surgeon In Obstetrics and Gynecology, specializing In Gynecology and Advanced Gynecological Surgeries and Robotic Surgery at Medi Clinics Hospital in Dubai - would like to discuss the diagnosis of cervical cancer, its prevention, and awareness.

Cervical cancer affects all women of all ages, specifically between the ages of sexual activity and the peak age of 51. Sexual health is very important in the prevention of cervical cancer. Looking at the numbers, 600 thousand women worldwide are affected by cervical cancer and 342 thousand died of cervical cancer in 2020.

In the USA, cervical cancer is detected by using PAP smears and conventional screening methods with HPV testing. In 2020, around 14,500 cases were diagnosed in the USA while almost 4,000 cases died. In developing countries, the death rate is higher due to a lack of HPV testing, lack of awareness, and prevention methods.

A cervical cancer diagnosis is usually late if the patient discovers it by herself. She will experience late or heavy bleeding, post-coital (after intercourse) bleeding. However, with regular checkups and PAP smears with a medical professional, women can have a diagnosis at early stages which would ultimately play a huge role in saving their lives.

Pap smears are also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women.

A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that's at the top of your vagina.

Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer.

In the last decade, new testing has been developed to detect HPV. HPV stands for Human papillomavirus. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms. Cervical cancer is caused 99.7% of the time by HPV. The risk of contracting this virus is lowered by having protected sexual intercourse and not having intercourse with multiple partners or having intercourse with a partner who was exposed to HPV. Having sexual intercourse with someone who has another sexually transmitted disease along with HPV might compound the effects and accelerate the stages of getting a simple infection to cervical cancer.

HPV is very common. Almost 50 to 70% of sexually active individuals by the time they are 50 years old would have been exposed or would be carrying HPV. With good immunity, 90% of the time we get rid of the virus. However, the problem arises when the virus persists in our system that will lead to neoplasia, dysplasia, or cervical cancer in time. From the time of infection to the time of cervical cancer, it could be one year or 15 to 20 years. It is very important to follow up with your doctor and get regular screenings. 

HPV also has a vaccine to protect against 9 HPV types called Gardasil which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts 95% of the time.

In that regard, young girls and boys should be vaccinated from age 9 to 26 in order to decrease the chances of cervical cancer in the future because of sexual encounters at a later time. So please get tested by your physician yearly to detect any changes in your cells, to nip cancer in the bud, and avoid any complications with surgery or other methods of prevention. 

Help spread awareness about this topic by educating ourselves and our children about their sexual health and saving their lives.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

January 26, 2022 — Mint Basil Team

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