Primary Cervical Cancer Prevention
Prophylactic vaccination against the major causes of cervical cancer, the carcinogenic human papillomavirus types 6, 11, 16 and 18 is now available worldwide and offers additional protection from cervical cancer.
Secondary Cervical Cancer Prevention
Screening tests offer the best chance to have cervical cancer found at an early stage when successful treatment is likely. Screening can also actually prevent most cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervix cell changes (pre-cancers). So that they can be treated before they have a chance to turn into a cervical cancer. Despite the recognized benefits of cervical cancer screening, not all Pakistani women take the advantage of it. Most cervical cancers are found in women who have never had a Pap test or who haven’t had one recently.
The Pap (Papanicolaou) Test
Regular cervical smear test is the best way to identify abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix at an early stage. All women should begin cervical cancer testing (Screening) at age 21. Women aged 21 to 49 years old suggested for screening every three years. Women who are 50 to 64 years old suggested for every five years. It is important that you attend your smear tests even if you have been vaccinated for HPV, because the vaccine does not guarantee protection against cervical cancer.
With this test the frequency of screening will decrease to five year intervals. Once a woman has been screened negative, she should not be re-screened for at least five years, however she should be re-screened within ten years. This represents a major cost saving for health systems.
Cervical Cancer Vaccination
Childhood immunization program offered to girls. The vaccine is given to girls when they are 12 to 13 years old, with three doses given over a six-month period. Two cervical cancer vaccines have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in U.S. First on is Gardasil, for girls and boys, and second is Cervarix, for girls only.
Although the HPV vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer, it does not guarantee you would not develop the condition. You should still attend cervical screening tests even if you have had the vaccine. The cervical cancer vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women or people who are moderately or severely ill. Cervical cancer vaccine offers benefits even if you are already sexually active by protecting you from specific strains of HPV to which you have not been exposed.
What can you do to protect yourself from cervical cancer if you are not in the recommended vaccine age group?
HPV spreads through sexual contact. To protect yourself from HPV, use a condom every time you have intercourse. In addition, do not smoke. Smoking double’s the risk of cervical cancer.
To detect cervical cancer in the earliest stages, see your health care provider for regular Pap tests. Seek prompt medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding after intercourse. Also between periods or after menopause. Also the pelvic pain, or pain during intercourse.