What Is Cervical Cancer?

What Is Cervical Cancer?

The cervix is the neck of the womb. Cervical cancer occurs when the normal cells of the cervix turn into cancerous ones because of a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Initially, HPV causes changes in the cells that are not yet cancer. These are called pre-cancerous cells/lesions. In some women, unfortunately, these pre-cancerous cells can develop into invasive cervical cancer.  It is important to note that pre-cancerous cells do not always become cancerous.

Cervical cancer is only found in women because they are normally born with a cervix. Typically, it affects women in the reproductive age group, which is ages 21 – 49.

HPV is a common type of virus that affects areas such as the mouth, throat, and genital region and can spread through sexual or other skin to skin contact. HPV can exist in the body with no symptoms and in most cases does not cause any problems. Cervical cancer if not treated early can have serious consequences.

Cervical Cancer in Zambia

Zambia has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the world. It is the most common cancer in Zambia. The estimated incidence rate is 58 per 100,000 women and the death rate is 36.2 per 100,000 women.

Cervical Cancer and HIV/AIDS

According to UNAIDS, there are over 630,000 Zambian women living with HIV/AIDS which puts them a higher risk for cervical cancer. Women with HIV/AIDS are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop invasive cervical cancer due to their compromised immunity. Social-cultural practices and behaviors such as women inserting substances in the vagina may contribute to a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. This is because the substances can disrupt the protective barrier of the cervix.

Combatting Cervical Cancer

The Zambian government has prioritized cervical cancer in its National Cancer Control Strategic Plan 2016 – 2021.  For cervical cancer, the main objective is to expand access to cervical cancer awareness, prevention, early detection, treatment, and care to reduce deaths by 25% by 2025. Although cervical cancer is a deadly disease it can easily be PREVENTED through vaccination and treatment of precancerous lesions.  Invasive cervical cancer can be CURED if detected early and adequately treated.

Article Contributors: Ellen-Banda-Aaku, Dr. Dorothy Lombe, and Udie Soko

PS: If you would like to share your experience with cervical cancer as a patient, caregiver, medical personnel, etc please DM or call Idah on 0966 824 027 or 0976 659 914.

Pp/s 4th February is World Cancer Day