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Affinity Health Discusses Why It Is Important to Detect Cervical Cancer Early

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the cells of the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vaginal canal. It is the top cause of cancer-related mortality in South African women and the second most commonly diagnosed malignancy (excluding basal cell carcinoma). While most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 35 and 44, women of any age can be vulnerable.


“Detecting cervical cancer in its early stages is critical for a better prognosis,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “It’s important to be aware of the signs and risk factors that can aid in early detection, as well as to have frequent, annual screenings.”


Cervical Cancer And The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a common virus spread through skin-to-skin contact, body fluids, and sexual intercourse, is the leading cause of cervical cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), multiple sexual partners, early sexual debut, and the use of oral contraceptives all raise the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Overweight, inactivity, alcohol consumption, poor eating habits, smoking, and chemical exposure all raise risk.


How Long Does Cervical Cancer Take To Develop?

Unlike other aggressive cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), cervical cancer is slow growing and spreads less rapidly. Cervical cancer takes 15 to 20 years to develop in women with healthy immune systems. In women with compromised immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection, it can take as little as five to 10 years.

What Are Cervical Cancer Symptoms?

Cervical cancer in its early stages often occur in women with no indications or symptoms. Patients may, however, have the following symptoms as their cancer progresses:

  • In women of reproductive age, irregular blood spotting or light bleeding between periods
  • Spotting or bleeding after menopause
  • Back, leg, or pelvic pain that persists
  • Weight loss, weariness, and a loss of appetite
  • Vaginal pain and foul-smelling discharge
  • Swollen lower extremities


Depending on which organs the disease has progressed to, further serious symptoms may appear at a later stage.


How is Cervical Cancer Diagnosed?

Cervical cancer is diagnosed in a variety of ways. An abnormal HPV (human papillomavirus) or Pap test result is generally the first sign of cervical cancer. Further tests will be performed in order to diagnose cervical cancer or pre-cancer. The Pap test and the HPV test are both screening tests rather than diagnostic testing. In other words, they can’t tell if you have cervical cancer for sure but act as a red flag to signal additional testing is required to determine whether a cancer or pre-cancer exist.


If cervical cancer is detected, your health care practitioner will examine the size of the tumour and the extent of the disease inside the pelvis and distant organs to determine the stage of cancer. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are all treatment options depending on the stage of the disease. Palliative care is also an important part of cancer treatment to alleviate discomfort and pain.


Screenings Can Help You Lower Your Risks

Pap screenings can reveal abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer if they are not checked on a regular basis. A swab of cervical cells is used in the screening process. It can be unpleasant, but most women report that it’s not painful.


Read More: Interesting Facts About Pap Smears You Probably Didn’t Know


A lot of the time, aberrant cells are discovered and destroyed before cancer cells form. In nations with routine cervical cancer screening, early detection and treatment of precancerous lesions can prevent up to 80% of cervical malignancies.


Can Cervical Cancer be Prevented?

In South Africa, we are fortunate enough to have a vaccination programme to protect girls from being infected by HPV and reduce the risk of developing HPV related cervical cancer later in life.


The younger your daughter is, the better her body’s immune system can respond to the vaccine, resulting in the production of protective antibodies against the virus. Read more about Gardisal and Cervarix, the two vaccines available in South Africa by clicking here.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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