WHO: It is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month!

Dr. Amir Petrus Dawood

Cervical cancer could be the first cancer ever in the world to be eliminated, if:

90% of girls are vaccinated

70% of women are screened

90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment.


During January, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is marking Cervical Cancer Awareness Month with a series of tweets, videos, and infographics.

In 2018, an estimated 570 000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and about 311 000 women died from the disease. Persistent infection with high-risk. human papillomavirus (HPV) types is the main cause of cervical cancer.

Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.

Although most infections with HPV resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women.Effective primary (HPV vaccination) and secondary prevention approaches (screening for, and treating precancerous lesions) will prevent most cervical cancer cases.

When diagnosed, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. Cancers diagnosed in late stages can also be controlled with appropriate treatment and palliative care.

With a comprehensive approach to prevent, screen and treat, cervical cancer can be eliminated as a public health problem within a generation.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells arise in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. HPV is almost always the cause of cervical cancer, which is why vaccines against the virus are an important part of cervical cancer prevention strategies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three vaccines – Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix – that prevent infection with certain subtypes of HPV including 16 and 18, two high-risk HPVs that cause some 70 percent of cervical cancer

In a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), researchers investigated the types of HPV infections in 12,514 women aged 15 to 45 and found that the seven subtypes of the virus targeted by Gardasil 9 accounted for about 91 percent of the most advanced cervical precancers, meaning that Gardasil 9 could prevent nine out of 10 cases of cervical cancer.

“If vaccination programs with this new-generation vaccine are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions,” said senior author Elmar A. Joura, MD, an associate professor of gynecology at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.

But there is a lack of public awareness and adherence to vaccination programs in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 to 12.

Screening for cervical cancer

Screening means checking for a disease in a group of people who don’t show any symptoms of the disease. Screening tests help find cervical cancer before any symptoms develop. When cervical cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better.


DIAGNOSIS OF CERVICAL CANCER

• Usually, diagnosing cervical cancer begins when a Pap test becomes abnormal. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and may do a physical exam. Based on this information, your doctor will refer you to a specialist or order tests to check for cervical cancer or other health problems.

• The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating. It’s normal to worry, but try to remember that other health conditions can cause similar symptoms as cervical cancer. It’s important for the healthcare team to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a diagnosis of cervical cancer.

• The following tests are usually used to rule out or diagnose cervical cancer. Many of the same tests used to diagnose cancer are used to find out the stage (how far the cancer has spread). Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment.

Pap test

• A Pap test removes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix. Doctors look at the cells under a microscope to see if they look normal or abnormal. The test can find abnormal changes in cells early, before cancer develops.

• A Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer. It is done every 1 to 3 years, depending on your province’s or territory’s screening guidelines and your health history.

HPV test

• A human papillomavirus (HPV) test is a lab test that looks for the DNA of only high-risk types of HPV that have been linked to cervical cancer. In some cases, the HPV test can be done on the same sample of cells collected during a Pap test.


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