Myths about cervical cancer

The word cancer raises eyebrows with shock and fear and sends a chill down our spines. Cancer undoubtedly is a horrible disease claiming the lives of millions every year all across the globe, cervical cancer being one of them. The biggest irony lies in the fact that in spite of being aware of its consequences and evil effects, very few of us delve into it seriously to take necessary prevention in an attempt to avoid it in future. Most of us live in our own mirage of beliefs and conclusions and therefore do not even attempt to resolve the issue or believe that we might just be the next one in queue to be attacked by this fatal disease. Today, let us put on our thinking caps and learn clearly about the myths and facts of cervical cancer.

I am too young to fear about cervical cancer

We generally live in a make-believe world, which is a reflection of our own made up thoughts. Most of us think that age determines the occurrence of cervical cancer. It is true to say that the average age of being hit by cervical cancer is 48 years, but it is also not wrong to say that this rule does not apply to all. There are real life cases where women as young as 20 years of age have been detected positive with cervical cancer. Moreover, all over the world, everyday newer cases of HPV infection and the pre-cancerous dysplasia condition are most commonly being registered more in younger women than women falling in the older age slot.

There is no prevention for cervical cancer

Very few of us are aware of the fact that cervical cancer can be prevented if necessary precautions are taken and accepted screening guidelines are followed stringently. The primary reason for development of cervical cancer within a woman is when she is infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus, in turn, is sexually transmitted to the female body. A newly introduced vaccine can prevent the penetration and development of this virus, thereby reducing the risk of occurrence of cervical cancer largely.

Additionally, cervical cancer is the post-mature stage because of consistent HPV infections and is predetermined in a pre-cancerous stage called dysplasia. Doctors, worldwide, claim that if detected at an early stage, a patient can successfully be treated from developing cervical cancer. Following a healthy lifestyle, staying away from cigarettes and restricting the number of sexual partners within a lifetime are some of the common preventive guidelines which can save you from this deadly disease.

I never had sexual intercourse, so I do not require HPV vaccine

We all are aware of the fact that cervical cancer is primarily spread through sexual intercourse, thereby concluding that women or girls who are not active sexually are not exposed to the risks of cervical cancer. However, there are other sources of acquiring cervical cancer. It can be transmitted from one infected person to the other sexually, orally and even through touch.

In the year 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved and launched a specially formulated vaccine called Gardasil to prevent the spread of this hazardous disease. The authority even gave strict recommendations for injecting vaccines routinely to girls aged 11 to 13 years, issuing a warning along with it that unless and until everyone is vaccinated, women and girls between 13 and 26 can also be candidates for the vaccine to prevent the disease from spreading like an epidemic. However, experts suggest that early vaccination doses should be given at a young age, before a woman becomes active sexually to get the best results from the vaccine.

I had the HPV vaccine, so I do not need to use condoms during sex

The HPV vaccine is a tool that protects you from four types of HPV virus, which can cause cervical cancer. However, there are many other strains of virus as well, which can cause HPV virus from developing or other sexually transmitted diseases from getting into your body, which can prove quite challenging. In an attempt to avoid these complicated situations from occurring, you should continue using condoms during sex, even if you have already taken the HPV vaccine.

If I have Gardasil, I do not require PAP smears

Gardasil is the recently launched preventive vaccine for cervical cancer, which provides protection from four types of HPV virus out of which two are connected to cervical cancer and the other two are linked to genital warts. This is a very commonly misunderstood fact that even if you have been vaccinated with Gardasil you still need to undergo PAP screening from time to time. The vaccine gives you protection against only four kinds of HPV but does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. It therefore does not provide you with a 100 percent shield against this fatal disease. Experts recommend that the first PAP test should be conducted on a woman as early as 21 years of age or within three years of being sexually active, whichever comes first, to ensure full safety against cervical cancer.

I am have cervical cancer as my PAP test showed abnormal results

It is not always necessary that a positive or abnormal PAP test is an indication of the patient suffering from cervical cancer. An abnormal PAP test result could be a description of a pre-cancerous condition which can be fully treated. Moreover, before coming to a conclusion, there are a series of tests which are conducted on the patient like HPV, calposcopy and biopsy to examine cancer cells closely. Conversely, if a woman has been complaining of bleeding or pain, even after testing negative or normal after a PAP screening, it does not mean that she is cancer-free. Under such circumstances, it is advisable to seek further care as 10 percent of all PAP tests show a false negative result.

Cervical cancer has no symptoms

We are often told to believe that cervical cancer has no symptoms and may appear at any stage of your life without ringing an alarm bell. This is not completely true as cervical cancer has its own set of symptoms. If you happen to bleed every time after an intercourse or experience bleeding between menstrual periods or continue to bleed even after having achieved menopause, these are indications and signs that you might be a victim of cervical cancer. Other common symptoms of cervical cancer are abnormal discharge from the vaginal area or severe pain in the pelvic region.

If I am detected positive with cervical cancer, I am not going to survive

It is not true that if detected with cervical cancer, a woman is sure to die. Cervical cancer can be cured completely if diagnosed at an early initial stage. Statistics show that the survival rate of cervical cancer, if caught at the earliest stage, is 92 percent. However, the ratio keeps declining with passage of time and late detection. The survival rate is lower in developing countries due to inadequate screening options and facilities. Regular screening is therefore necessary to enable early diagnosis at a treatable stage.

I must have a hysterectomy to treat cervical cancer

Hysterectomy is a surgery in which both the cervix and the uterus are removed and is opted as a typical treatment procedure for curing early cervical cancer detection. However, it would not be wise to say that hysterectomy is necessary to treat cervical cancer. In advanced stages of the disease, radiation and chemotherapy are given to the patient to cure the disease. The latter options are also used for women who cannot undergo a surgery due to past unfavorable history or any other complication. Moreover, patients who have been diagnosed of cervical cancer at its earliest stage can avoid the pain of undergoing a hysterectomy by opting for other available options like a cone biopsy in which only the cancerous tissue and a small portion of the surrounding unhealthy tissue is removed. Another available alternative is to undergo a procedure called radical trachelectom in which only the cervix is removed; the uterus is left intact within the body of the patient.

If I go through hysterectomy for cervical cancer treatment, I will have early menopause

Many of us have the misconception that if a woman undergoes hysterectomy, she will have an early menopause. However, there is no connection between the two as hysterectomy removes the cervix and the uterus, and not the ovaries. Occurrence of menopause is determined by the latter alone and not by the former two organs. However, if a woman receives a pelvic radiation therapy in order to cure cervical cancer, she might experience an early menopause as radiation affects the ovaries.

After I finish treatment, I will live the rest of my life worried about cancer recurrence

Cervical cancer is most likely to reoccur within the first two years of the treatment. Many patients in the advanced cases are followed up to 5 years hence, after which the risk of its reappearing is minimal. Therefore, after finishing with the treatment of cervical cancer, one does not have to live throughout with the fear of it reoccuring.

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