Preventing Cervical Cancer

14 September 2019

Preventing Cervical Cancer

In Malaysia, only 22.2% of women aged between 20 and 65 have their cervical cancer screening every one to three years, while the rest fail to do so. Many women are afraid to undergo cervical cancer screening which is considered to be painful as well as the embarrassment of seeing a doctor, which causes this disease to increase every year.

“Almost 100% of cervical cancers are transmitted by the HPV virus through sex. Those who are sexually active and those who have sex with multiple individuals are at a higher risk. Individuals who have had sex once also have a greater risk of contracting cervical cancer than those who have never had sex before,” said Dr Zaharuddin Rahmat, Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Gynaeoncologist at Sunway Medical Centre.

However, this “killer” virus can be prevented through two ways – the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination and pap smear testing to detect abnormal cervical cancer cells in the early stages.

Married women and those who have regular sex are advised to undergo a pap smear test once every three years. The procedure of a pap smear test is simple and takes no more than five minutes. It is painless and the results can be known between three and four days.

The HPV vaccine can be taken by individuals who have never had sex before. Married individuals can take the vaccination but it is more effective in protecting those who get the injection before having their first sexual intercourse. Those who have had sex before are recommended to undergo a pap smear test for prevention and treatment.

Dr Zaharuddin said the HPV virus stays in the body within two years and will fade away due to one’s immune system. But the virus will remain in the body if the person has low resilience and is at risk for serious diseases such as cervical cancer.

“To prevent cancer, individuals need to have regular pap smear tests and practice a healthy lifestyle such as not smoking and reducing alcohol consumption,” he said.

Undoubtedly, many women refuse to undergo a pap smear test for the fear that they will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. One in 10 women who underwent a pap smear test showed that they had a change in cervical cells due to various reasons such as fungal and bacterial infections.

However, women do not need to worry about these cervical changes as they are not usually cancerous. One of the benefits of cervical cancer is that it can be prevented and treated. It is the only cancer that can be prevented through a pap smear test to see if the uterine cells are in normal condition or not.

“Before the cells turn cancerous, they can be treated by removing the abnormal cells. If the cells are confirmed to be cancerous, the entire uterus should be removed to reduce the risk of it spreading to other areas of the body,” Dr Zaharuddin said.

In Malaysia, the Ministry of Health has set up an immunization programme in schools in an effort to prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccination has been provided for free to 13-year-old students for the past 10 years through this programme.

“The HPV vaccine is the only preventive measure given to female students before they have their first sexual intercourse. The vaccine can prevent over 90% of cervical cancers in the country if one has not had sexual intercourse,” Dr Zaharuddin said.

Source: Berita Harian