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Cervical Cancer: What You Should Know and Do About It

It's a painful fact: a woman dies from cervical cancer every two minutes worldwide. And without prevention, the next casualties may be yourself or the women closest to you.

So be in the know. Be aware of the dangers posed by cervical cancer as well as the effective strategies for its prevention. With sufficient awareness, surveillance, advocacy and prevention, the next two minutes won’t have to be the last for anyone, especially for the women around you. If you are looking for a support group that pushes cervical cancer prevention, please check out Bravehearts.

Here are some fast facts on one of the leading killers of women worldwide:

About Cervical Cancer
  • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide for women, with over half a million new cases and around 288,000 deaths reported each year.1
  • Over 80% of cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries such as the Philippines.1
  •  In the Philippines, over 7,000 new cases are reported annually.2
  • 12 Filipinas die of cervical cancer every day. It’s also the 2nd biggest cause of female cancer mortality in the Philippines1
  • The Human papillomavirus or HPV is the necessary cause of cervical cancer. It is a common virus that is easily transmitted. (McIntosh N. Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. JHPIEGO 2000)
  • 8 out of 10 women will have HPV in their lifetime, the virus that causes cervical cancer. 3
  • Locally, more than half of the women with cervical cancer will die within 5 years after diagnosis, the Philippines having one of the lowest 5-year survival rates in the world. (Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates 2005).
  • Early Cervical Cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. (Ault K. Infect Dis OGyn 2006.)
  • All women are at risk. All women regardless of age, lifestyle or economic status areat risk of cervical cancer (Intl J Gynecology and Obstetrics Nov 2006)
  • Vaccination alongside screening is a woman’s best defense against cervical cancer. (Goldie SJ. J NCI 2004)
HPV: the virus behind cervical cancer
  • HPV is a common virus that can be transmitted not only by engaging in sexual intercourse, but also from mere skin-to-skin contact (rubbing) of genital area (even without penile penetration)
  • Most HPV infections heal on their own; but this doesn’t apply to all cases. When an HPV infection persists, it could develop into cervical cancer.
Preventing Cervical Cancer through Screening and Vaccination

Pap Smear:  A screening technique wherein cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope to check for disease or precancerous changes.
  • VACCINATION: There are now vaccines available against cancer-causing HPV types 16 and 18. Along with regular screening, getting vaccinated can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer due to HPV types 16 and 18 by 94%.5
  • For young girls between 15-25 years old, long-lasting protection is necessary because this is when they will be the most prone to the HPV virus.6 However, that doesn’t mean that women under or beyond that age bracket are safe. An HPV vaccination should provide long-term protection for all women, since they will be vulnerable to HPV infection throughout their lives 7-9
  • HPV vaccination is currently not included the DOH’s public health programs such as the Expanded Program for Immunization and Cancer Control Program.
  • The DOH, however, established a Cervical Cancer Screening Program in 2006. It is a nationwide program that includes sustainable capability building, educating, and training health workers on cervical cancer screening methods such as VIA(Visual inspection with acetic acid), pap smear, and the like.
Preventing Cervical Cancer through HPV Vaccine
  • A cervical cancer vaccine should provide significant protection for women against the two most common cancer-causing Human Papilomavirus (HPV) types (HPV types 16 & 18) for the long term.
  • HPV types 16 and 18, together, are responsible for over 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in Asia Pacific.
  • Vaccine efficacy against other cancer-causing HPV types beyond HPV 16 and 18is also an important thing to consider. This includes the HPV strain 45, which is the third most common cancer-causing type in the Philippines. HPV strain 45 – also prevalently causes an aggressive form of cervical cancer called adenocarcinoma among Filipinas.
  • Females as young as 10 years old may be vaccinated as well as women of mature age.  Ask your doctor about cervical cancer protection through screening and vaccination.
References
1.    World Health Organization. Initiative for Vaccine Research.  http://www.who.int/vaccine_research/diseases/hpv/en/  Accessed on April 20, 2009.
2.    Philippine Cancer Society Manila Cancer Registry and the Department of Health Rizal Cancer Registry. Philippine cancer facts and estimates. Manila: Philippine Cancer Society, Inc; 2005.
3.    Gravitt PE, Jamshidi R. Diagnosis and management of oncogenic cervical human papillomavirus infection. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2005;19:439-458
4.    Kiviat NB, Koutsky LA. Specific human papillomavirus types as the causal agents of most cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: implications for current views and treatment. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1993; 85(12): 934-5.
5.    Goldie SJ, Kohli M, Grima D, Weinstein MC, Wright TC, Bosch FX, Franco E. Projected clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of a human papillomavirus 16/18 vaccine. J Natl Cancer Inst 2004b; 96: 604-615. 13.
6.    Schiffman M, Kjaer SK. Natural history of anogenital human papillomavirus infection and neoplasia. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 2003; 31: 14-19
7.    Giannini SL et al. Enhanced humoral and memory B-cellular immunity using HPV16/18 L1 VLP vaccine formulated with the MPL/aluminium salt combination (AS04) compared to aluminium salt only. Vaccine 2006; 24:5937-5949
8.    Inglis S et al. Chapter 11: HPV vaccines: Commercial Research & Development. Vaccine 2006;24 Suppl 3:S99-S105
9.    Villa LL. Vaccines against papillomavirus infections and disease. Rev Chilena Infectol. 2006; 23:157-163
10.    Department of Health, Republic of the Philippines. Manila: Department of Health, Republic of the Philippines; 2005. Feb 10 [Cited 20 February 2009]. Administrative order no. 2005-2006. Establishment of a cervical cancer screening program. Available from: http://www.doh.gov.ph.


These facts are based from a press release from a recent Bravehearts - cervical cancer media event. For more information about cervical cancer, visit www.Xoutcervicalcancer.com.ph.

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