Cervical cancer is something to be concerned about especially when every sexually active woman (you) is at risk. It's one of the most common cancers in women in the Philippines (and the rest of the world), and thousands of women have died from it.
But it's apparently not as bad as it seems, apart from the fact that you can get an HPV vaccination hence preventing yourself from even getting cervical cancer. (HPV causes almost all cervical cancers.) According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 93% survival rate if cervical cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage. How is that possible? It's got to do with how the cancer grows, if it can be detected early, and the treatment.
Cervical cancer tends to grow slowly compared to other cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It can take 10 to 15 years (or more) for abnormal cells to turn into cancer." The speed would depend on your immune system and overall health. If your immune system is healthy and you eat right and don't smoke, your body can clear the HPV and reverse any cell damage at the start. But if you have an unhealthy lifestyle or have other health conditions, the cancer can develop faster. But generally, it does take about a decade.
Unlike ovarian or uterine cancer, cervical cancer can be detected early through routine Pap tests. Your doctor can see abonormal cell changes on the surface of your cervix. That's why it's important to get these tests regularly: every three years for women 21 to 65 years old. Your doctor should know how to proceed if he/she should find cancer cells.
If you do have abnormal cells developing at an early age in your cervix, according to gynecological ontologist Dr. Elizabeth Jewell you can get a cone biopsy, a surgery that would remove those cells with a scalpel, a carbon dioxide laser, or loop electrosurgical excision procedure. (It's one of those surgeries where you don't have to stay overnight in the hospital, so if you're generally afraid of operations, know that you don't have to fear for your life in a cone biopsy.) That also means you wouldn't have to get a hysterectomy (a surgery that would remove your uterus). Again, that's if you're diagnosed at an early stage.
The benefits of routine checkups couldn't be any better. Now if only every woman had access to health care.
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