Cervical cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The cervix is a part of the female reproductive system that connects the vagina to the uterus. It plays a major role in the menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth.
Ghana is a low-middle- income country with annual diagnosed cases of 2,797 and 1,699 deaths in 2020.
cervical cancers are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV infections). Genital HPV infections are contracted through sexual intercourse, anal sex and other skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small percentage of people, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells.
Cervical cancer typically does not cause noticeable symptoms during early stages, it’s vital that women have regular screening tests to detect any precancerous changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer. Current guidelines recommend that women ages 21 to 29 have a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 are advised to continue having a Pap test every three years, or every five years if they also get the HPV DNA test at the same time. Women over 65 can stop testing if they’ve had three normal Pap tests in a row, or two HPV DNA and Pap tests with no abnormal results.
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Many sexual partners. The greater your number of sexual partners and the greater your partner’s number of sexual partners the greater your chance of acquiring HPV.
- Early sexual activity. Having sex at an early age increases your risk of HPV.
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Having other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS increases your risk of HPV.
- A weakened immune system. You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV.
- Smoking. Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
- Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug. If your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in the 1950s, you may have an increased risk of a certain type of cervical cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.
To reduce your risk of cervical cancer:
- Ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine. Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.
- Have routine Pap tests. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Most medical organizations suggest beginning routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeating them every few years.
- Practice safe sex. Reduce your risk of cervical cancer by taking measures to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as using a condom every time you have sex and limiting the number of sexual partners.
- Quit smoking. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you quit.