Vaccine Against Cervical Cancer? Not Quite …
BBC Scotland has reported some promising research about the introduction of a vaccine for girls against the human papillomavirus – HPV – which could in the future assist in the battle against cervical cancer. The immunisation programme, which began ten years ago, is thought to have resulted in a 90% drop in pre-cancerous cells for those vaccinated. Although brilliant news it is unfortunately of little benefit for many police officers and staff reaching that dangerous cervical cancer age group of thirty to forty-five. Below is a section of the book where we describe this horrible condition and what you can do to reduce your risk.
Cervical cancer tends mostly to affect sexually active women between the ages of thirty and forty-five, although it can affect other age groups. It kills around a thousand women a year in the UK and almost all cases are caused by a small number of the hundred or so strains of human papilloma virus that have currently been identified; these viruses cause damage to the cells of the cervix and can later lead on to cervical cancer BUT, I reiterate, we are only talking about a small number of HPV strains – HPV 16 and 18 are the main culprits and responsible for around 70% of cervical cancers – so don’t go thinking that having HPV will lead inevitably onto cancer because it’s a very common condition.
Cervical cancer is rather sinister in that it seldom displays any early symptoms at all, which is why you owe it to yourself to take advantage of every smear test you are offered in order to allow our wonderful health service the opportunity to check your sample for abnormal cells and take action if necessary. Early diagnosis is the key; if it’s picked up at ‘stage one’ you have up to a 99% chance of surviving five years with the condition … if it’s picked up at ‘stage four’ then that survival rate drops to a mere 20%
If you do get early symptoms they might be …
- Vaginal bleeding after sex, in-between periods or after the menopause.
- Pain and discomfort during the sex itself.
- A nasty smelling vaginal discharge.
And later, those symptoms may develop into …
- Urine incontinence.
- Blood in your urine.
- General changes in your bowel and bladder habits.
- A loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Swelling in one of your legs.
- Tiredness and general lack of energy.
- Pain in the bones.
- Pain in your side or back.
You best way of protection against cervical cancer are, as well as keeping your screening tests up to date, confirm that you had your Gardasil HPV vaccination when you were at school and, if you smoke, quit the fags as smokers are less able to deal with HPV. Practicing safer sex also lowers your risk as it cuts down your risk of contracting HPV in the first place, so that’s less sexual partners, less sharing of sex toys and more use of condoms, although be aware that HPV needs only skin-to-skin contact of the private parts to make itself at home.