Aside from some lifestyle changes, there’s very little one can do to prevent cancer. However, there is a vaccination that can protect you from two strains of a virus responsible for 99% of cervical cancer cases. It could help your child beat cervical cancer.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for causing cervical cancer. This is the second most prevalent cancer among women, after breast cancer. HPV are a group of related viruses which cause genital warts and various forms of cancer, including cancer of the cervix.
According to the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness, between 22.8 and 27% per 100 000 women report cervical cancer, far higher than the global average of 15.8. More than 3 000 women in this country die from this cancer each year.
The HPV vaccination prevents the infection of HPV in girls. As HPV can cause the development of cancerous cells on the upper layer of the cervix, a vaccination of girls from the age of 9 will protect them against developing HPV.
Health authorities recommend vaccination from the age of 9, before girls are sexually active, to prevent HPV infection. Clinical trials show that the vaccine is most effective when given from this age.
Common questions about HPV:
How is it spread?
The virus is spread by skin-on-skin contact during sex or intimate contact. Any woman engaging in sexual activity, even if she has only one partner throughout her life, can contract HPV. It is for this reason that husbands and fathers should encourage their wives to have their cervical screening (Pap smear, which can detect HPV and cancer) and ensure that their daughters are vaccinated against HPV.
How is it responsible for cancer of the cervix?
HPV has 52 strains or types. About 15 of these are oncogenic (cancer causing). The HPV strains 16 and 18 are found in 70% of all cervical cancer.
HPV causes cancerous cells to develop on the upper layers of the cervix. If left unchecked, the cells will grow into cancer. This will spread into the uterus and possibly to any other area of the body.
It can take between 10 to 20 years for cancer to develop. Women should have a cervical screening (Pap smear) every five years from the age of 30.
This will help diagnose pre- and cancerous cells.
What is the prevalence of HPV?
HPV is a common virus. It will infect about 80% of women at some time during their life.
Can you treat HPV?
No. There are no antivirals that can treat HPV.
Why should I allow my daughter to be vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine can prevent the development of cancer of the cervix. If girls do not receive the vaccine before they become sexually active the chance of them developing cervical cancer increases. The vaccine could help them beat cervical cancer.
Source: Western Cape Government