Friday, January 8, 2016

How to prevent cervical cancer

MANILA - Cervical cancer is considered as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the Philippines, despite being one of the easiest to prevent.

Around 6,700 cases of cervical cancer were reported in the Philippines in 2015. Of this number, around 3,000 or 50 percent of patients died of the said illness.

In an interview on DZMM, Dr. Joy Garcia, an obstetrician-gynecologist and oncologist, said that unlike in first world countries like the US, the number of cervical cancer-related deaths are high in the Philippines.

Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which can spread through all forms of sexual contact.

"Ang cervical cancer, ang nagsasanhi nito ay 'yung tinatawag natin na HPV. Ang HPV is short for human papillomavirus. Itong virus na 'to ay nakukuha sa pakikipagtalik, iba't ibang uri ng pakikipagtalik," Garcia explained.

HPV also tends to be asymptomatic, with symptoms only showing after 10 to 15 years after a person gets infected.

"Ang una kasing gagawin, 'pag kunyari nahawa tayo ng virus na 'to, 'yung resistensiya natin, mapaalis 'yung virus sa katawan natin. Pero kung kunyari mahina 'yung resistensiya ng babae, o kaya ang daming virus na nailipat sa atin, mananatili 'yung virus na 'yun, at later on, siguro in 10 to 15 years, magkakaroon ng cervical cancer," Garcia added.

The doctor also lamented how cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the Philippines, considering that it is very easy to prevent.

"Bago pa maging cancer, dadaan pa siya sa pre-cancer. May sakit na ang cervix, pero hindi pa siya cancer. At itong sakit na ito na pre-cancer, napakadaling gamutin," Garcia said.

"Dito kasi sa Philippines, marami pa rin ang hindi alam kung gaano kaimportante 'yung paano siya iiwasan, at paano siya mahuhuli ng maaga," she added.

A woman should also get tested three years after her first sexual experience.

"Lahat ng kababaihan, dapat alam nila na once magkaroon na sila ng karanasan sa pakikipagtalik, dapat alam na nila na nagpapa-pap smear sila taon-taon until 65 to 70 years old," Garcia said, adding that women as young as 21 years old can get a pap smear.

Aside from getting a pap smear, a woman can also undergo HPV DNA testing, and get a vaccine against HPV to prevent cervical cancer.

Just like any other kinds of cancer, early detection can lead to early treatment.

Those infected with HPV can undergo surgery or total hysterectomy, depending on the severity of the infections.

"Kung surgery, pwedeng may tinatanggal sa part ng cervix, pwedeng total hysterectomy. 'Pag tapyas lang, part lang ng cervix 'yung aalisin, may chance pang magbuntis at manganak ang babae," Garcia said.

Women who underwent hysterectomy and radiation therapy, however, will lose their ability to bear children.

Smoking and taking oral contraception also increase the risk of cervical cancer, according to Garcia.

"So kunyari nakipagtalik ako, nahawa ako nung virus. Kung smoker ako, mas lalong dumidikit 'yung virus sa cervix ko. Kung matagal akong gumagamit ng oral contraception o pills para hindi mabuntis, mas dumidikit 'yung virus sa cervix ko. Mas nahihirapan 'yung katawan kong paalisin 'yung virus sa katawan ko."

Although men are often carriers of HPV, there are only very few men who get infected with it.

"Carrier ang lalaki, pero hindi sila favorite nung virus. Pwede rin silang mag-penile cancer dahil sa HPV, pero hindi kasing taas, kasing favorite ng cervix."