-Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind-
(Dr Seuss quotes -American Writer & Cartoonist, 1904 - 1991)

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Cervical Cancer

I would like to share on something really important and useful to all my lady friends. Recently, while in a clinic, a leaflet on the counter caught my eyes and so I went closer to read the contents. It says in bold “In Malaysia, cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer affecting women.” A picture showed a solemn little girl with her sad daddy looking over a birthday cake on the table with a card that says… I love you mummy. And at the bottom of the picture says, “Honey, we still miss you everyday… Happy Birthday”

That was it. The entire message was too much for me but still, the urge of wanting to know more about this leaflet was strong. So, I took the leaflet and decided to read through the contents. What I found out from the leaflet is alarming.

In 2002, cervical cancer accounted for 12% of all female cancer in Malaysia. See the chart below to get a better idea of how disturbing the figure is.

And the second point says, virtually, every woman is at risk of cervical cancer, regardless of age or lifestyle.

So to say, you can be living a very healthy lifestyle and yet, you can be still at risk. Scary isn’t it, I thought to myself. I continued reading and came to know that cervical cancer are commonly caused by a virus called “high risk” HPV (Human Papillomavirus) that can be passed from one person to another during sex , though not necessarily. It can even be transmitted through just genital skin to skin contact. And here’s the strange thing. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives and some leads to cervical cancer. To the lucky ones, this is because the body’s immune system gets rid of the HPV infection naturally within 2 years. However, in some cases, the infection persists and thus, leads to the risk of progression to cervical cancer. And I thought to myself again, why take the risk? Because I can actually be protected against the cancer causing HPV by just taking the vaccination. Yes, I thought to myself. It’s about time I should start taking control of my health and be a more responsible person. I have a daughter now and the picture shown on the leaflet sort of in a way, gave me a ‘wake up call’. I decided to proceed with the vaccination.

If I could recall correctly, a friend of mine who went for this vaccination previously told me that the vaccination (per jab) could range between RM 300 – RM 400. But guess what? This clinic charges only RM 200 per jab. In total you would need 3 jabs. The second jab should be given one month after the 1st jab. And the 3rd jab, 6 months after the 2nd jab. If you wish to go to this clinic, please let me know and I’ll provide you with the details.

So back to the story, when I consulted my doctor, she told me that even in schools now, they are giving out HPV vaccination for girls as young as 9. Some parents are outraged by this because they felt that it is not necessary for a 9 year old girl to get such vaccination. But I think should they be briefed properly on the intentions, these parents may change their mind and look at it at a different perspective.

My doctor told me that by providing vaccination to school girls, even as young as 9, allows the immune system to be activated before she's likely to encounter HPV. For example, if an adult, assuming at the age of 31 obtains vaccination, the level of protection is perhaps only at about 80% comparing to a school girl who gets vaccinated at say, age 13, could increase their level protection up to 90%. In short, vaccinating at a younger age allows for the highest antibody levels because the higher the antibody levels, the greater the protection is.

Here’s the thing, ladies:

CERVICAL CANCER is preventable. It is the easiest female cancer to prevent, provided with regular screening tests and follow ups. It is also highly curable if found and treated early.

And as a woman myself, I realized that since I came to know of this now, I cannot be ignorant about it. It is only right that I should help to create awareness on this issue. Actually the truth is, each one of us have this important role to play in saving women from contracting cervical cancer. I plead you to read on more on this, do research and more importantly, to consider the vaccination.

Some other information that is crucial to all of us.

There are 2 type of tests that can help to prevent or detect cervical cancer.

1) Pap Smear, advisable to be done 3 days after your period is completely cleared.
2) The HPV test. Talk to your doctor about whether this test is right for you.

If you

1) Do not have regular Pap Tests
2) Do not follow up with your doctor if you had a pap test result appearing not normal
3) Smoke
4) Sexually active with more than 1 partner….

then, you are under the category of high risk.

What is worrying is there are no signs or symptoms for early cervical cancer. But, should you experience bleeding of discharge from the vagina, which you know is not normal, especially bleeding after sex, then go and check with your doctor immediately. And this information was again typed bold in the leaflet, so ladies, we must take note on this.

I think I have summarized what I read in the leaflet together with my other resources to a pretty short informative article here. If you want, you may pass this article on to your girl friends and family members. After all, sharing is caring. Value & take control of your life before it’s too late. This is in fact a reminder to myself as well.

Charts obtained from http://www.radiologymalaysia.org/breasthealth/about/FactsNStats.htm

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