Rwanda, as the first country in the world, has recently launched a comprehensive integrated cervical cancer prevention programme.
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix with abnormal growth of cells around the cervix, the lower part of the uterus or womb that opens at the top of the vagina.It usually develops in the cells of the surface of the cervix and develops very slowly.
Cervical cancer begins with abnormal changes in the cervical tissue. The risk of developing these abnormal changes has been associated with certain factors, including early sexual contact, multiple sexual partners, poverty whereby one may not afford regular pap smears and weakened immune system that may progress to cervical cancer.
Cigarette smoking is another risk factor for the development of cervical cancer. The chemicals in cigarette smoke interact with the cells of the cervix, causing precancerous changes that may over time develop into cancer.
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may increase the risk for cervical cancer, especially in women who use oral contraceptives for longer than 5 years.
The signs or symptoms of cervical cancer may not be evident until it has progressed to a dangerous stage. Cervical cancer does not usually cause pain even in its advanced stages.
The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding.
This is any bleeding from the vagina other than during menstruation.Vaginal bleeding after menopause is abnormal. If you have gone through menopause and have vaginal bleeding then there is a problem that requires medical attention.
Very heavy bleeding during your period or frequent bleeding between periods calls for evaluation from a medical personnel.
Bleeding after intercourse, especially after vigorous sex, does occur in some women.
If this occurs only occasionally, it shouldn’t be a problem. If the bleeding happens repeatedly, then there is need to see a Doctor.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer include leaking of urine or feces from the vagina, heavy bleeding from the vagina, pelvic and back pain, bone fractures, fatigue and loss of appetite among others.
Treatment for cervical cancer
The Pap smear is done as part of a regular pelvic examination for early detection of cervical cancer. It’s a quick, painless, and relatively cheap way of screening women for cancerous changes in their cervix.
Treatment of cervical cancer is usually a gradual process and depends on the stage of the cancer, shape and size and shape of the tumor, woman’s age and general health condition.
Early cervical cancer can be cured by removing or destroying the precancerous or cancerous tissue or surgery.
For advanced cervical cancer, removing the uterus (radical hysterectomy), extreme surgery where all the organs of the pelvis are removed and radiation are some of the cervical cancer treatment.
Rwanda is privileged to be the first African country to roll out free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination and screening for women so let’s make use of it to fight cervical cancer.