Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. Almost all cases are caused by human papillomaviruses (HPV). The good news is that cervical cancer is now almost 100 percent preventable - we all have it in our hands to beat this disease.
Let's make screening appointments a regular part of our daily lives and vaccinate our children against HPV. Let's talk about it with our friends and colleagues and give the issue the attention it deserves. Because today, no one has to die of cervical cancer.
What most women (and men) do not know is that cervical cancer is caused by an infection that is almost exclusively transmitted through sexual intercourse. The predominant viruses in this infection are certain human papillomaviruses (HPV).
"There are about 200 different HP viruses, of which 12-15 can cause cancer and are called high-risk types. About 70 percent of all women are infected with HPV, and in most cases these viruses do not cause any symptoms at first. "In about 90 per cent of all infected women, the body's immune system eliminates the viruses within two years," says Ghisu. "In the other 10 percent or so, the infections can last longer and lead to precancerous lesions or cervical cancer."
Young people are particularly vulnerable to HPV. They are discovering their bodies and having their first sexual experiences. As a result, there is a lot of experimentation, more frequent intercourse and a change in sexual partners during this period of adolescence. These factors contribute to the increased spread of HPV, especially at a young age.
"Vaccination can protect against infection with some HPV viruses," Ghisu stresses. "This should be done before the first sexual intercourse, if possible, but it is also useful afterwards".
There are several precancerous stages before the cell changes associated with HPV infection become cancer. The first two precancerous changes are unlikely to develop into cancer.
"You need to take these changes seriously, but there is no need to worry," says Ghisu. "It is worth waiting. In more than half of the cases, the cell changes go away by themselves".
In the case of the third precursor, conisation is usually performed. This involves removing a cone-shaped piece of the cervix and the cervical os with the altered tissue.
HPV is mainly spread through sexual intercourse. However, other infections (sexually transmitted diseases) such as chlamydia or herpes simplex increase the risk of cervical cancer. Smoking also makes it easier for pathogens to penetrate the cells of the cervix. "If a woman already has a precursor of cervical cancer, she should avoid nicotine," says Ghisu. "I also recommend a lot of exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding stress.
It is difficult to detect cervical cancer from symptoms, because in most cases there are no noticeable symptoms. That's why screening with your gynaecologist is so important. "In this way, precancerous lesions can be detected and treated in time, before it is too late," says Ghisu. "If you go for screening every three years, you have a good chance of catching any changes in the cervix early."
Regular screening includes cervical cancer screening in the form of a cervical smear test. For some years now, there have been two screening methods: In this country, the most commonly used is the cytology test (Pap test). The newer and more sensitive screening method, which is used in many neighbouring European countries, is based on an HPV test.
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