Cervical Cancer and HPV
As a young woman, you might have heard about cancer of the cervix, a cancer affecting the mouth of the womb. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing this devastating cancer which happens to be one of the commonest cancers amongst women.
Before we go there, cancer of the cervix is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is transmitted sexually. In fact, most people will get HPV at some point in their lives but fortunately most people will clear the infection with their immune system. There are different types of HPV by the way. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some cause genital warts whilst other types cause cervical cancer. The other 70 or so types cause warts elsewhere on the body, such as on the hands.
One important thing to note is that the use of condoms does not fully prevent the transmission of HPV because it can also spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Now that we know what causes cervical cancer here are some of the things that you can do to reduce the risk of getting Human Papilloma Virus HPV. Try and delay the age at which you start having sex. Also cut down on the number of sexual partners that you have. Getting vaccinated against HPV is another good way.
The Department of Health in South Africa has started vaccinating young girls who are 9 years old or in Grade 4. You can also get the vaccinations done at your doctor. Once you become sexually active make sure that you go for a PAP smear. This is a screening physical examination which detects early changes to the cervix. If these changes are picked up and treated early then there will be no progression to cervical cancer and lives can be saved.
Although you may feel embarrassed or fear discomfort during the examination by health care providers, do not be afraid. They are well trained and are happy to help you prevent cervical cancer.
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