What is the cervix and HPV?

The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that serves as a passageway between the vagina and uterus. Cervical cancer results when abnormal growths of cells in the tissues of the cervix begin to develop.

>95% of cervical cancer is due to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point of their lives, and some may be repeatedly infected. Although most HPV infections clear up on their own and most pre-cancerous lesions resolve spontaneously, there is a risk for all woman that HPV infection may become chronic and pre-cancerous lesions progress to invasive cervical cancer.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can be subtle and often goes unnoticed until the cancer is persistent. However, these symptoms are shared with other disorders.

Contact your healthcare provider if any of the following symptoms last more than a few weeks

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause or after sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • A change to your usual vaginal discharge
  • Heavier periods or periods that last longer than usual

High Risk HPV (16 & 18) is estimated to cause

  • 70% of anal cancers
  • 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers
  • 50% of penile cancers
  • 20% of head and neck cancers

People with these symptoms should seek medical help immediately!

Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that is almost totally preventable. Get vaccinated against HPV to decrease your risk against cervical cancer.

FQA’s on HPV and cervical cancer

  • Taking contraceptives for a long time
  • Unhealthy lifestyle and diet
  • Having several sexual relationships
  • Smoking
  • HPV (Papilloma virus)
  • Other STI’s
  • Having sex at an early age (before 16)

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer that affects woman in South Africa. 1 in 22.8 – 27 per 100 000 woman develops cervical cancer compared to the global average of 15.8. Every year there is about 5743 new cases of which 3027 cases are associated with death.

The big 5 cancers affecting women

  • #1 Breast cancer
  • #2 Cervical cancer
  • #3 Colorectal cancer
  • #4 Uterine cancer
  • #5 Lung cancer
  • Conization of the cervix
  • Complete hysterectomy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Get vaccinated against HPV
  • Go for regular PAP smears
  • Practice safe sex and limit sexual partners
  • Live a healthy lifestyle
  • Know your family history
  • Know your HPV status