Cervical Cancer – Symptoms & Prevention, What Age Can Vaccine Be Given

Let’s talk about something that lurks in the shadows, a silent threat many women face – cervical cancer. It might not be a dinner party conversation, but it’s a topic that deserves our attention. Understanding the symptoms and prevention methods can make a significant difference in this fight. So, let’s dive in.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Imagine your cervix as the gateway to your uterus. It’s a tough little cookie, lined with cells that keep things running smoothly. But sometimes, a sneaky virus called HPV (human papillomavirus) can infect these cells, causing abnormal changes. Now, these changes don’t always turn into cancer. Our bodies are pretty good at fighting them off. But in some cases, if left unchecked, they can develop into cervical cancer.

Know the Symptoms

Cervical cancer is often a silent assassin. There might not be any warning signs at all. That’s why regular checkups are crucial. But if cervical cancer does progress, some symptoms to watch out for include:

1.   Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

One of the most common symptoms is irregular bleeding between menstrual periods, after intercourse, or post-menopause. While occasional irregularities are common, persistent abnormal bleeding requires attention.

2.   Pelvic Pain

Women with cervical cancer may experience pelvic pain that ranges from a dull ache to sharp pain during activities like intercourse or even just standing.

3.   Unusual Vaginal Discharge

Keep an eye on any changes in the colour, odour, or consistency of vaginal discharge. Persistent alterations could indicate an underlying issue.

4.   Painful Intercourse

Pain or discomfort during sexual activity may be an early warning sign. It’s essential to communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any such discomfort.

Here’s How to Prevent It!

While understanding the symptoms is crucial, taking preventive measures is equally, if not more, important. And the good news is that cervical cancer is highly preventable. Here’s what you need to know:

1.   HPV Vaccination

The introduction of HPV vaccines has been a game-changer in the fight against cervical cancer. The vaccines, such as Gardasil 9 and Cervarix, protect against the most common HPV strains responsible for cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancer cases (around 91%) are linked to HPV. So, getting vaccinated significantly reduces your risk.

2.   Regular Pap Smears

Pap smears, also known as Pap tests, are an essential component of cervical cancer screening. Starting around the age of 21, women should undergo regular Pap smears every three years. The frequency may change based on individual risk factors, so it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. While the average age for diagnosis is around 47, it can strike at any age. That’s why staying vigilant with screenings is important throughout your life.

3.   Safe Sex Practices

Practising safe sex can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer. Using condoms consistently and correctly can offer protection against the virus. Limiting sexual partners can be an effective way to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, as there is a high risk of HPV exposure.

Age Matters: When to Get the HPV Vaccine

The CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination for adolescents aged 11-12, but the vaccine can be administered as early as age 9. Catch-up vaccination is also available for females up to age 26 and males up to age 21 who have not been adequately vaccinated before.

It’s important to note that the HPV vaccine is most effective when administered before exposure to the virus. Therefore, getting vaccinated at the recommended age provides the best protection against cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases.

In Summary,

Early detection is key, and the more people who know the signs and symptoms, the better. Cervical cancer may be scary, but knowledge is your best defence. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor. They’re there to answer your questions and help you stay healthy. Schedule your regular checkups, get vaccinated, and be an advocate of healthcare.

Together, let’s prioritise our well-being and keep cervical cancer at bay!

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