Understanding the Jigsaw; “Cervical cancer’’
“She is dead”… Those words rang like a cathedral bell in her head but it meant one thing… One thing only. Mary has lost her long battle with cancer, and though it was painful to lose her, it was even more painful to watch her stay alive and suffer series of uncontrollable pain, anguish and trauma.
Mary hung unto life for 3 years; 3 years of pain and misery, 3 years of not knowing what the time told, what the future held and what the weather said. But unlike most women who suffer breast cancer, this was new but not so new. We could not afford chemotherapy but we did, we could not afford the surgery but somehow we still did. In the end Mary could not stand, seat, walk or talk without experiencing pain… She became a shadow of herself with all the weight loss and Hair loss. Mary was not promiscuous, did not take alcohol and was not a smoker neither did she engage in risky behaviors but Mary died of cancer. She died of cervical cancer….
The cancer of the cervix arises as a result of the abnormal growth of unhealthy body cells which has the ability to invade and spread to other parts of the body of females of child bearing age. Although it has no early symptoms, the advanced symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain on the pelvic area and pain during sexual intercourse which may be accompanied by bleeding after sexual intercourse.
Cervical cancer is usually associated with Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV) and of course people living with the HIV infection also have a high chance of contacting this virus as one of the opportunistic infections.
The people at most risk of contracting HPV are primary and secondary or technical smokers, people with a weak immune system, women on birth control pills, women who became sexually active at a young age or who has many sexual partners and women who have history of untreated sexual transmitted infections. Now note that here a primary smoker is someone that smokes a cigarette directly into their system while a secondary or technical smoker is someone that does not smoke but spends time in areas where there are smokers or with people that smoke hereby inhaling the poisonous carbon in the environment. Viral Infections like the Human Immune-Deficiency Virus (HIV) can bring about a sudden drastic change in the immune system hereby increasing the viral loading and reducing the CD4 count. When this happens the human body is left porous and prone to new infections which include HPV. Women who have a long term history of birth control pills that may have altered or lingered in their hormonal system as well as women with multiple sex partners are most likely to get the HPV infection. It is very important that condoms are used during sexual intercourse and of course the number of sexual partners is reduced drastically. Women who have had one or two sexual transmitted infections including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID); untreated are also most likely to get infected with HPV leading to a higher possibility of getting cervical cancer.
However, multiple pregnancies have been associated with cervical cancer. Women who have had 7 to 10 full term pregnancies are most likely to develop cervical cancer more than have had 2 to 3 full term pregnancies or no pregnancies at all.
Cervical cancer can be detected through a Paper smear test but in recent times other accurate test status are been determined with cervical screening and Biopsy. Cervical cancer screening can be done by using a Pap test or by the use of acetic acid to identify the precancerous changes which when treated can prevent the development of cancer.
At the early stages of cervical cancer there may be no signs and symptoms at all but one of the most commonly known sign is vaginal bleeding – usually bleeding after sexual intercourse. In rare cases a vaginal mass may exhibit the presence of malignancy. Also, moderate or serious pelvic pain during and after sexual intercourse and abnormal vaginal discharge are symptoms of the presence cervical cancer. When the cancer is advanced, metastasis may be found in the abdomen, lungs or chest of the patient.
Other symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include: weight loss, fatigue, pelvic pain, appetite loss, back pain, leg pain, swollen legs, heavy vaginal bleeding and bone fractures. In rare cases there maybe some leakage of urine or feces from the vagina as a result of disruption in the functionality of the body system.
Although most cervical cancer patients are placed on a five year survival rate, the only means of treatment available is through radiation treatment, chemotherapy and surgery.
The only known method of preventing cervical cancer is to have regular cervical screening, get the HPV vaccine and the constant and correct use of condoms during sexual intercourse. This is because women who have sexual intercourse with men that have other sexual partners are at a higher risk of contracting HPV, hence the use of condoms and reduction of sexual partners. Avoiding smokers or smoking is very helpful considering that smoking also aids the growth and development of HPV leading to cervical cancer.
Delaying sex has also been associated with cervical cancer prevention as early sex debut is one of the causes but whatever methods that applies to you, just make sure that somehow you are not left behind in the race against this killer jigsaw; Cervical Cancer.