5 common myths about cervical cancer

Due to the increase in pap smear tests being done, the number of women dying due to cervical cancer related cases is significantly reducing. It is a key thing to note that the disease can be prevented especially if diagnosed early.

In line with the possibility of early detection through cervical screening, HPV Vaccination is also available to help curb the disease at its roots.

Despite this information being readily available, it may surprise you that may women are still very misinformed about the disease, its causes, symptoms as well as treatments methods. We would like to provide all the necesarry facts to help demystify cervical cancer and bring solace to those who may have given into the many rumours that they may have heard about the disease.

Myth 1: Cervical cancer cannot be prevented.

Truth: Infection with the human papillomavirus, or HPV, is an absolute requirement for cervical cancer to develop. This virus is transmitted sexually, however, preventing HPV infection dramatically reduces a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.

In addition, cervical cancer usually develops slowly after persistent infection with HPV and will first appear as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. If detected at this stage, it can be effectively treated to prevent cervical cancer from developing. Screening with Pap smears and tests for HPV detect these pre-cancerous conditions so patients are treated early.

Myth 2: I’m too young to worry about cervical cancer.

Truth: The average age of cervical cancer patients is 48. While it’s not common, women can be diagnosed in their 20s. HPV infection and the precancerous condition dysplasia are common in younger women.

Myth 3: I don’t have intercourse, so I don’t need the HPV vaccine.

Truth: HPV can be passed from one partner to another through intercourse, as well as orally and through touching.

Doctors’ highly recommend that vaccination be given routinely to girls age 11–13. Until everyone is vaccinated, girls and women ages 13–26 are also candidates for the vaccine.

Myth 4: I had the HPV vaccine, so I don’t need to use condoms during sex.

Truth: The HPV vaccine will protect you from infection with four types of HPV — but there are other strains of this virus and many other sexually transmitted diseases that it does not protect against. Continue using condoms to protect against STDs.

Myth 5: I don’t need a Pap test.

Truth: A woman’s first Pap test should be given when she turns 21 or three years after she begins having intercourse, whichever comes first. Recommendations differ for how often a woman should receive a Pap test. Even if you have the HPV vaccine, you still need a regular Pap test. The vaccine targets four types of HPV but it will not protect against all the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, so it’s still important to continue regular screenings.

As a bonus to the above, we would like to add one more myth because we believe many women probably believe this to be a fact that is cast in stone.

Myth 6: My doctor gave me a pelvic exam, which is the same as a Pap test.

Truth: The Pap test collects cells from the cervix, which are sent to a lab to be evaluated. In a pelvic exam, your doctor physically examines the cervix and other parts of a woman’s anatomy. Both are important to detect problems early.

It is easy to believe all that is said out there, especially if you tend to hear it a lot especially from your peers. However, when in doubt, ask, remember your doctor isn’t there to judge you.

And before we forget, throughout the month of July, we shall be providing free breast examination with every pap smear done at our Outpatient Centres.

We are sure you may have more questions about your visit to a gynaecologist. We encourage you to visit any of our specialists located at the City Centre, Sarit Centre, Williamson, Greenhouse, Karen-Langata, Donholm, Mountain Mall, Ruaka, Roysambu, Nakuru, Thika, Nakuru, Eldoret, Embakasi, Ngong, Mombasa Outpatient Centres for further information.

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