How to protect yourself from cervical cancer
The month of August celebrates strong and ambitious women. It’s also the perfect time to highlight one of women’s biggest health threats –cervical cancer.
In Africa, which has a population of 267.9 million women aged 15 years or older, it is estimated that 78 897 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually and 61 671 (78%) will die from the disease.
How is cervical cancer detected?
The good news is that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers. A pap smear is key for early detection.
A pap smear tests for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix (the opening of the uterus). During the routine procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped away and then examined for abnormal growth.
“Most cervical cancers are due to infection from the HPV virus. By detecting cervical cancer cells early with a pap smear, treatment can start before it spreads and becomes a bigger problem,” explains Dr Zantelle Botes, General Practitioner at Intercare Wonderboom Medical Centre.
It is recommended that all women begin their cervical cancer screening with a Pap smear every three years beginning at age 21.
Between 60% and 80% of women who are newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in the past five years
Do you have to go a gynaecologist?
You can schedule a pap smear with an Intercare doctor and do not have to have the test done by a gynaecologist. The procedure is covered by most medical aids, although a co-payment may be required.
What about the results?
You will be notified within a few days whether results are normal or abnormal. If your results are normal, that means that no abnormal cells were identified. If the test results are abnormal, this doesn’t mean you have cancer. It simply means that there are abnormal cells on your cervix, some of which could be precancerous. Your Intercare doctor will discuss the next steps.
Regular pap smears can reduce cervical cancer mortality rates. It can be uncomfortable, but the brief discomfort can help protect your health.
“Between 60% and 80% of women who are newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in the past five years and may never have had one,” adds Dr Botes. “While cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer worldwide, the good news is, it is also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.”