…..to her, she was doing this to help her only child whom she gave birth to while in the penultimate year of secondary school. Regrettably, she said, ‘ i had aborted a couple of pregnancies and had sex with several men while in secondary school and by then i was seventeen because i had to fend for myself as an orphan who had no one to help me, but this child just could not be aborted’. … that is the result the doctor said. She has stage III cervical cancer at age forty-five…
Womanhood is a world on its own and it takes patience, knowledge, and pity sometimes for one to dabble into such world. They have their own peculiarities in every sphere of life. In the medical world, as cancer remains one monster to deal with, peculiar to women are some cancers like breast, cervical cancer. In this article, I would focus on cervical cancer which from my own little experience most women don’t know about until they come down with it.
The cervix ( pronounced: saviks) is the neck or narrow portion of the uterus(womb) where it joins with the vagina. Cancer is simply when cells of a particular tissue undergo uncontrolled (and often rapid) growth. Thus cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix.
Cervical cancer is the second commonest malignancy after cancer of the breast in women in developing countries ( Nigeria inclusive) and it remains the leading cause of death in these countries but the third commonest cancer in women in the world. Peak age when women present in Nigeria is 45 to 55 years. However, it is diagnosed in any woman of reproductive age group.
The causes have been attributed to
- Genital infection with human papilloma virus
- Sex at a young age
- Multiple sexual partners
- Promiscus male partners
- One who had or has a sexually transmitted infections. It is important to point out that HIV infection is associated with a very high increase in risk of cervical cancer.
- Also, a patient with cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia can progress to cervical cancer
What makes the Doctor think A patient has it
*Though, there are some that may not have any symptom but will come to the hospital with abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap smear) result. This is in those that do screening
* abnormal bleeding from the vagina, majorly after sex
* bleeding from the vagina between menstrual period or after menopause
*offensive vaginal discharge which is characteristic
*pain on pelvic side
For those women that present late, they may have in addition
- Leg pain/ swelling
- Blood in the urine or bloody urine
Or the doctor investigates by looking at the cervix called colposcopy
How does the Gynaecologist treat
The treatment modality depends on the stage of cancer the patient presents with.
- It may be surgery if it is at the early stage or
- The use of radiation and chemotherapy for the more advanced cases
- Or the use of chemotherapy or radiation for palliation for cases that have developed other things from it
There is a similar 5-year survival rates for radiotherapy or surgery for someone with the cancer. This survival also depends on the stage of the cancer. If stage I there is 70-80% survival rate but stage IV has 18% survival rate.
What is in this for YOU!
The major cause of this disease has been attributed to infection with HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV). HPV infection is usually transmitted sexually. Condom use may not prevent the transmission. The HPV 16 and 18 are the major serotypes of the cause. Thus, a lady or woman who has been introduced to sex life should get screened two years into sex life and every 3-5 years. In essence, those who should have PAP SMEAR done are
- Ladies who have started having sex
- Or above age 21
The American Cancer Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist recommend that
- 21-29 years should have pap smear alone every 3 years
- 30- 65 years pap smear every 3 years or HPV and cytology testing every 5 years
- Greater than 65 years no screening recommended
- Less than 25 no screening recommended because women aged 21-24 are at low risk for invasive cervical cancer but they are at high risk for HPV exposure and associated lesions.
The joy here is that, one could be vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (which is not only for girls but also available for boys) but for girls majorly. The vaccine is useful in those who have not had the disease and no usefulness in one who already had it. The two HPV vaccines approved in the United States of America are Gardasil and Cervarix.
THE GIST HERE is, please go and get PAP SMEAR done today and tell others about it. It is for your future, in other to live a meaningful life insha Allaah. So please present YOURSELF at any Government health care facility for details.
…. her sex partners were no longer patronizing her since they got to know about her disease as she even was no longer interested in that. She was no more lively, seems no hope for her. Her Chemotherapy drug has made her loose her hair, no beauty to display any longer. The radiotherapy also played it own part on the pelvis. At last, she gave up the ghost with a repentant soul. Don’t ask me if God would accept such repentance. I leave YOU TO JUDGE…. this woman, this cervical cancer.
I.O Dada (Haniif ibn Toyin)