Fact: Seven Filipino women die of cervical cancer, a kind of cancer that puts every woman at risk, regardless of race, age, lifestyle or socio-economic status.
Cervical cancer continues to be a major threat for Filipino women. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipinas. What’s worrisome is that two in three Filipinas diagnosed with cervical cancer may die within five years. Since culturally, Filipinas are known to be caring and selfless for others but tend to dismiss concerns about themselves, those who may have contracted cervical cancer may have been diagnosed at a late stage, when the chances of recovery are slim.
Andi Manzano and her mom, Rose, shared their very touching story on how Cervical cancer has deeply affected their family. Andi also blogged about their family’s journey through cancer two years ago.
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop and spread in the cervix, the entrance between the vagina and the uterus. This is caused by persistent infection with the cancer causing human papillomavirus (HPV).
It is also estimated that up to 80 percent of women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Majority of HPV infections may come and go, some may clear spontaneously within two years, however if the immune system is weak, the HPV infections may persist and may eventually lead to the development of cervical cancer.
While HPV is primarily transmitted via sexual intercourse, skin-to-skin genital contact is also a recognized mode of transmission. Lifestyle changes can help prevent the development of cervical cancer, such as being conscientious about one’s sexual activities. Beyond regular consultations and pap smears by your OB-GYN, vaccines that protect against cancer-causing HPV are also now readily available.
Who is at risk?
The incidence of cancer-causing HPV infection is actually highest at the young ages of 15-19. One is at a greater risk of cervical cancer if one had her first sexual intercourse at a young age; have given birth for multiple times; have or have had sexually transmitted diseases; have HIV or whose immune system is weakened; a smoker; long-term use of oral contraceptives for 5 years or more and those who rarely or have not yet had any pap smear.
The World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (WHO-SAGE) on Immunization reiterates the importance of getting young girls protected through HPV immunization before their first exposure to HPV (i.e. before sexual contact), as young as 9 years old.
For older women, the risk of persistent infection with cancer-causing HPV (which is necessary for cervical cancer to develop) increases with age, and is highest when a woman is over 66 years old. Thus, screening is recommended starting age 21 to detect cervical abnormalities that precede actual cervical cancer. Studies further show that vaccination remains to be beneficial for older women to prevent HPV infections.
Power Over Cervical Cancer
In commemoration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, research-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) furthers its advocacy to increase cervical cancer awareness efforts with the Power Over Cervical Cancer “You Can & You Will” campaign.
The campaign aims to encourage Filipinas to realize that they have the power to protect themselves and their dreams—simply by consulting their doctors and asking about ways to prevent cervical cancer.
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Getting cancer may be a distant concept for women who are well and at their prime, but they should be aware that even the healthiest can be at risk,” says, , GSK Medical Affairs Manager.
In the Philippines, it is estimated that the financial cost of preventing cervical cancer through screening and vaccination could be 20 times more affordable than the cost of treatment,” she adds.
“The power to protect yourself from cervical cancer is in your hands, and NOW is the best time to consult with your physician and have yourself screened,” Dr. Manio stated.
My personal take on this is a balance between going over and learning more about this advocacy of cervical cancer awareness and looking into controversies that are currently surrounding HPV vaccination. I highly suggest that you do your own research as well. I’m all into this because of my own autoimmune scare some years back and especially because even the experts themselves admit to the fact that vaccination will not entirely eradicate one’s chance to acquire the cancer, it may lower the risk.