In Singapore, cervical cancer is one of the top ten cancers among women and claims the lives of 100 Singaporean women each year. We know that with all cancer, the key is early detection. October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, so we’re all up to speed with our breast examinations for this month. Now it’s time to move on to pap smears and thanks to scientific developments, the new HPV screening process means we only have to confront the dreaded duck bills every five years! Now that’s a Find of the Week!
Cervical cancer and its symptoms
Cervical cancer is a malignant tumour or growth in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The thing about the early stages of cervical cancer, is that it’s silent – you may not display any symptoms. Advanced symptoms include irregular bleeding, unpleasant smelling or bloody vaginal discharge or bleeding during or after sex.
Cervical cancer be detected early and even prevented
Despite symptoms not presenting themselves until the advanced stages, the good news is that cervical cancer can be detected very early and even prevented before it happens, according to SingHealth. This is because doctors now know that nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be attributed to the HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. If your HPV screening detects early cell changes that are caused by HPV, doctors can remove these cells before they have a chance to become cancerous. Hurrah!
What’s the difference between a traditional pap smear and the new test?
A traditional pap smear attempts to detect abnormal cells. The new test detects the presence of HPV, which causes almost all cervical cancer. Essentially, the new HPV screening test is a step ahead of the traditional pap smear test. Sadly for us, the testing method is the same (hello duck bills) BUT the good news is because of the better testing technology, we only require testing every five years, rather than every two.
However, this doesn’t mean you can skive off from visiting your gynaecologist every two years – there are lots of other things they may be able to help with, including sexual health, contraceptive advice and (gah!) issues relating to the onset of menopause.
So, the message is clear…if you’ve been putting off seeing your doctor for a pap smear, there’s never been a better time than right now. Go on!
Top image: Louis Reed via Unsplash
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