Fighting A Silent Killer: Cervical Cancer And The HPV Vaccine

The search for a vaccine against cancer has been the holy grail of medical research for decades. Did you know that there actually is a vaccine that can prevent a certain type of cancer? Cervical cancer, which is one of the most deadly cancers, can be prevented with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, which is the region between the vagina and the uterus. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women globally and is estimated to affect approximately 5 million women.

It is also one of the most deadly cancers and is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women worldwide. In developing countries, cervical cancer is the deadliest cancer in women.

Close to 90% of all cases of cervical cancer cases are caused by infection with the Human Papillomavirus. The infection often has no symptoms so it is very easy to transmit. Hence administration of the HPV vaccine is the best way to prevent cervical cancer.

What Is The Human Papillomavirus?

The Human papillomavirus or HPV is a group of various strains of a type of papillomavirus which is a DNA virus.

There are over 170 strains of HPV and the infection is transmitted through sexual contact. HPV affects millions of people and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most cases of HPV cause no symptoms and resolve on their own.

Close to twelve strains of HPV are designated as high-risk since there is evidence linking them to the development of cancer in the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, oral cavity, and pharynx.

Who Should Receive The HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is recommended as part of standard immunization programmes. The World Health Organization recommends administering the vaccine to girls aged 9 to 13, which is when it is most effective. The vaccine often requires two to three courses or booster shots. The vaccine can be taken at any age but is most effective when administered prior to the onset of puberty.

Widespread immunization is important to protect those who cannot take the vaccine and can prevent up to 70% of all cases of cervical cancer.

Since men do not have a cervix, they aren’t affected by HPV in the same way as women. Boys and men can also receive the vaccine since HPV infection is linked to oral, anal, and penile cancers as well.

Signs And Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer

One of the major reasons why cervical cancer is so deadly is because the diagnosis is often delayed and the disease is not detected until it has reached an advanced stage. The signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can be vague or absent, which is why it is important to be aware of them so you can stay vigilant about your health.

The possible symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • Bleeding, not related to the menstrual cycle
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Lower back, lower abdominal, or upper thigh pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

It is advisable to get regular cervical cancer screening tests like the Pap smear for women over the age of 21. Early detection can be life-saving.

The best way to prevent cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine. Talk to your doctor about this vaccine and get yourself screened regularly to maintain your health.

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