JANUARY: THE CERVIX CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
The number of women prevented from dying from cervical cancer in a country is directly proportional to the development of that country in terms of health services and the value given to women. It was proven that deaths rates due to cervix cancer which originates from the cervix may be significantly reduced through early diagnosis by screening methods. Therefore, our Ministry manages to carry out Cervix Cancer screening programs included in comprehensive healthcare programs. January has been designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and Awareness events are held in many countries of the world in order to draw attention to the disease. In our country, these awareness activities are held in all our provinces, and our people are informed about this issue and our screening programs are introduced.
Why is Cervix Cancer Important?
• Cervix cancer is preventable.
• Cervical cancer is 100% curable if detected earlier.
• Death from cervical cancer is completely preventable.
If you are a woman with following features, you may have a higher risk for cervix cancer.
• If you are over 30 years of age and have untreated Human papilloma Virus (HPV) and/or any sexually transmitted infection. (HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that may cause at least six types of cancer including cervical cancer.)
• If you have started active sexual life earlier (before 16 years of age) If you have multiple sex partners.
• If you do not have regular cervix screening.
• If you smoke.
• If you have a dietary habit with less fruits and vegetables.
• If you have a history of using birth control pills for a long time (more than 5 years).
• If you have an impaired immune system (i.e. Human Immune Deficiency Virus/HIV)
• If you are over-weighted or obese.
• If you have a close relative such as a sister or mother with cervix cancer.
• If you have been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth.
Symptoms: Changes that develop in the cervix before cancer are usually asymptomatic; however, they may be detected in the early period with pelvic examination, Pap test and HPV tests. If you have any of the following symptoms, immediately refer to a healthcare professional:
• If you have an increased or unusual type of discharge from the vagina
• If pain is observed in the back, legs or in the area of the female genitals
• If tiredness, weight loss, and loss of appetite develop
• If there is swelling on one leg or both legs
• If pain is observed during urination
• If mild blood discharge in spotting form beyond normal menstruation period
• If you have longer or severe menstrual bleeding
• If bleeding or pain is observed during or after sexual intercourse
• If bleeding is observed after menopause
Cervical cancer which may be treated fully with screening and early diagnosis is among the causes of death from cancer today. Cervical cancer is the most common disease associated with HPV. Almost all cervical cancers develop due to HPV infection. HPV also causes genital and oral cavity cancers both in men and women. Detection of HPV facilitates the diagnosis of cancer by indicating the precancerous changes in the cervix in the early period. Two screening tests which have been developed to help prevent or detect cervical cancer early are commonly used today.
• A Pap test (or Pap smear) is based on looking for precancerous conditions (cell changes in the cervix) that may develop into cervical cancer if not treated properly.
• On the other hand HPV test is a test based on the detection of the virus (human papilloma virus) that may cause these cellular changes in cervical cells.
• Both tests are extremely simple and painless procedures which may be performed at the same time.
Cervical cancer is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “preventable cause of death”. Therefore, it is recommended that this dangerous but preventable cancer should be screened all over the world and each country should establish its own control policy. In accordance with the national cancer screening program implemented in our country, HPV and Pap Test are implemented to women between 30 and 65 years of age in line with our screening standards every 5 years. When the first test result is evaluated as “no disease”, namely, if the HPV test is negative or the Pap-smear pathology report is normal, the person is informed. According to the HPV test, they are informed that they do not have the virus causing s cervical cancer, and according to the Pap-smear test, there are no cancer precursor cells in the swab sample collected. These results do not guarantee that there is no cervical cancer or that it will never appear in the future. The person is invited to be screened for cervical cancer again after 5 years. Positive cases are sent to our diagnostic centers for further examination.
Where may Screening tests be Performed?
In our country, cervical cancer screenings are carried out FREE of charge at Cancer Early Diagnosis, Screening and Training Centers (KETEM), Family Health Centers (ASM), Community Health Centers (TSM) and Healthy Life Centers (SHM).
Cancer screenings continue by taking the necessary precautions in line with the Infection Control Measures Guidelines in the COVID-19 pandemic prepared by our Ministry and the Scientific Committee.
• The cervical cancer is treated by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatment options may be prescribed individually or in combination with each other, depending on the patient’s condition and needs.
• The treatment is associated with cancer stage, type of tumor cells, and your medical condition.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable due to the availability of effective screening tests and vaccine to prevent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections as of today. When detected early, cervical cancer is highly treatable and associated with long-term survival and good quality of life. Issues to be considered for protection may be summarized as follows:
• There are vaccines developed against the most cancer-causing types of HPV with higher protection. The World Health Organization recommends girls between 9 and 14 years of age to be vaccinated against cervix cancer.
• To have regular screening tests from 30 years of age.
• Training about safe sexual intercourse.
• Use of condom during sexual intercourse.
• Circumcision of men.
• Avoiding smoking.
• A diet which is rich in vegetables and fruits.