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May is Cervical Cancer Consciousness Month

By: Cedrick Louis Antiquina

According to the Philippines' most recent cervical cancer statistics, 335,000 women died of cervical cancer in 2019, out of a total female population of 53,800,000 in the Philippines.

© 3D Model of Madonna's Vagina in New Series of NFTs | Cervical Carcinoma with Adnexa
© 3D Model of Madonna's Vagina in New Series of NFTs | Cervical Carcinoma with Adnexa

Cervical Cancer is the second most frequent malignancy amongst Filipino women, next to breast cancer. In 2003, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation No. 368 designating May as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in order to increase the transmission of information about cervical cancer and strategies to avoid it.

This disease in its early stage is insidious; it is generally asymptomatic meaning infected patients feel okay without any complaints or symptoms. There are also some who experience bleeding especially after sexual intercourse or douching. Since cervical cancer is caused primarily by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a tumor-causing virus - lesions such as lumps and cysts can often be felt not only in the cervix but also in adjacent organs such as the vagina and its opening.

Thankfully, with the encouragement of the World Health Organization (WHO) to include HPV vaccination as an essential part of health, cervical cancer is showing a downward trend.

Cervical Cancer vaccination is targeted towards its primary causative agent which is the Human Papillomavirus. It is marketed as Gardasil or Cervarix amongst others. Vaccines are effective preventive measures toward diseases. It usually contains inactivated parts of the causative agent so that once it is introduced into the body, the immune system can interact and make antibodies without making the person feel sick. In the case of Gardasil, the leading HPV vaccine worldwide, it contains inactive virus "coatings". After being introduced into the body, the immune system recognizes it as a foreign material and makes antibodies to fight it. Our immune system then remembers it and keeps them on "stand-by mode" so that when the actual "active" virus infects a person, the body already has enough antibodies to counter it.

However, considering that there are still those who do not have access to vaccination and screening for the disease, the trend may not be an accurate reflection of the recent status of cervical cancer worldwide as there is still so much to be done to accurately determine the current statistics of the cancer affecting women.

Getting vaccinated is a responsible act towards controlling cervical cancer. Getting screened is also another way of ensuring one’s health. If you are someone who have had sex with many partners and if at an early age you had your first sex, try getting yourself screened by having a Pap Smear Test. A Pap smear is done by brushing the cervix in order to obtain cells for viewing under the microscope. In the Philippines, there is an existing memorandum from the Department of Health (DOH Department Memorandum No. 2015-0120) that allows free Pap Smear Test for all women 21 years old and above.

In Negros Island, the only health institution where you can avail of the free Pap Smear Test every Tuesday for the whole month of May is at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.

On the other hand, males, though without cervix, are also recommended to have Human Papillomavirus vaccination to prevent neoplastic formation and prevent HPV transmission, though not necessary, HPV vaccines prevent the deleterious effects of Human Papillomavirus to males such as genital warts.

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