Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Did you know that every two minutes worldwide a woman dies of cervical cancer? That’s a frightening statistic. But, what’s even more disturbing is that her death could have been avoided.  Cervical cancer is a preventable disease.

“September is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in South Africa and women are urged to pay attention to their health down south. The incidence of cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer in our country, but it is the most common cancer affecting women in Sub-Saharan Africa,” explains Robyn Farrell, Executive Head of 1st for Women Insurance, who has always put its money where its mouth is in supporting efforts to increase awareness, treatment and prevention of this potentially fatal disease through the 1st for Women Foundation 

“It’s important to note that this disease that is curable if detected in the early stages with screening called a pap smear. Or it can be completely prevented by vaccinating against most common cancer-causing strains of HPV,” says Farrell.

Infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is the underlying cause of most cases of cervical cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 cause about 70% of all cervical cancers. About 21% of women in the general South African population are estimated to harbour a cervical HPV infection at a given time.

“Having a pap smear, which will test the cells from your cervix, performed by a gynecologist, at least once a year, is essential to detect any abnormal cells that could become cancerous,” says Farrell.

Women can be infected with HPV at any time in their lives while they are sexually active, but most infections clear up on their own. When an infection persists, the risk of developing cervical cancer rises. Unfortunately, many South African women don’t undergo regular screening for cervical cancer due to lack of awareness or because they can’t, or don’t know how to access the necessary healthcare services.

“In order not to risk becoming a statistic, all sexually active women need to become more aware of this cancer, take responsibility for their health and empower themselves by having preventative screenings. Also, definitely consider having the vaccine.” concludes Farrell.

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