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Cervical Cancer Awareness and Prevention:

Cervical Cancer: Affecting 1 in 42 women in SA

In South Africa, 1 in every 42 women is at risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is the 2nd most common type of cancer diagnosed in women. Cervical cancer affects the lower part (“mouth”) of a woman’s uterus (womb).

What causes cervical cancer?

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer. It is transmitted in humans through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse. Other risk factors include having multiple sexual partners, smoking cigarettes, and having a weakened immune system, including HIV infection.

Can it be prevented?

Abnormal cells (pre-cancerous changes) can be detected on the cervix several years before cervical cancer develops. The following options are available:

 

    • Regular cervical cancer screening is important from the age of 21.
    • You can also get a vaccination against HPV which can prevent the development of cervical cancer. Women from the age of 9 to 26 can get the vaccination at a healthcare clinic or hospital.
    • HPV testing from the age of 25. This new screening strategy focuses specifically on detecting high-risk HPV in the cervix.

Cervical screening

The process of detecting abnormal cells in the cervix is known as cervical screening. Cervical cancer screening is done by means of a Pap smear. A Pap smear is a simple procedure performed by a Nurse, a Doctor or Gynaecologist.  A sterile speculum is inserted into the vaginal canal to enable the visual evaluation of the cervix, thereafter a small brush is used to remove cells from the surface of the cervix. This sample is sent to a lab that analyses it to identify any abnormal cells. Women should generally have a Pap smear every 2-3 years until the age of 65. If picked up early enough, these abnormal cells can be removed before they become cancerous. Several terms are used to describe abnormal cells, such as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL), and dysplasia.

 

When abnormal cells are found during the Pap Smear analysis, the next step in treatment involves the use of a colposcope. This is a medical instrument with a magnifying glass, that is used to view these abnormal cells more accurately on the cervix. With the help of the colposcope, the abnormal cells can be surgically removed in some cases.

 

Clinical Research Studies on HPV treatment:

FARMOVS is one of the few research organisations in Africa that have access to a colposcope. As a result, many researchers from the University of the Free State (UFS) have collaborated with us, given the instrumental role that a colposcope plays in female health research studies. One such study is currently under way.  We are evaluating the efficacy of a possible treatment for HPV with related pre-cancerous cervical lesions in women between 25 to 55 years old, who have been diagnosed with squamous intraepithelial lesions of their cervix.  If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact us for more information E: study.bloemfontein@farmovs.com.

 

HPV Vaccines

Vaccination against HPV activates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against HPV. Whenever the body is then exposed to the HPV virus the body will recognise it and have antibodies ready to fight and clear the virus. In South Africa, it is recommended that the HPV vaccine is administered to girls and women from the age of 9 to 26 before becoming sexually active or infected with the virus. Two vaccines are available to protect against high-risk HPV: Gardasil® and Cervarix®.

 

Conclusion

Cervical cancer is preventable through regular cervical cancer screening and vaccination against HPV. It is vital for women to speak to their healthcare providers about the risk of cervical cancer and to schedule regular health screening. The HPV vaccine is another effective measure that can prevent HPV infection which in turn can prevent your chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Volunteer to participate

We are evaluating the efficacy of a possible treatment for HPV with related pre-cancerous cervical lesions in women between 25 to 55 years old, who have been diagnosed with squamous intraepithelial lesions of the cervix. If you are interested in participating, click on the button below and complete the form. Our Recruitment team will contact you with more information.