How to prevent cervical cancer

    • Brief

    • Cervical cancer is uncontrolled cell growth in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the uterus from the vagina). It is often caused by an infection with high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) that is sexually transmitted.

      It is commonly prevented through vaccination against HPV and by screening and early treatment of lesions.

    • Vaccination

    • Vaccination, combined with screening will prevent most cervical cancer cases.

      HPV vaccination is suitable for women and girls between 9 and 45 years of age. Two vaccines are in use in Nigeria, gardasil and cervarix. They are prescription-only medicines.

    • Screening and early treatment

    • Screening detects early abnormal changes in the cervix. Your doctor may recommend either or both pap-smear and/or HPV test. In some cases, your healthcare provider can do a visual inspection with acetic acid. Your healthcare provider can recommend the most appropriate test for you.

      A pap-smear test is most often carried out during screening to detect precancer cells. A small brush is used to collect cells from the surface of the cervix and the areas around it. An expert then examines the cells under the microscope for irregularities.

      An HPV test can be done to detect if a person has an HPV infection. An expert tests cells collected from the cervix (as above) to identify if there is an HPV infection and the type.

      If abnormal cells are seen, your healthcare provider will recommend treatment or refer you for follow-up.

    • Self-care practices

    • You can do the following to reduce your risks:

      • Delaying your first sexual intercourse until your late teens or older.
      • Limit the number of your sex partners.
      • Practise safe sex by using condoms and dental dams.
      • Avoid sexual intercourse with people who have had many partners.
      • Avoid sexual intercourse with people infected with genital warts.
      • Quit smoking. Women who smoke have a much higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

    • Early treatment

    • 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.