CERVICAL CANCER IS PREVENTABLE

CANCER of the cervix is the most common cancer among South African women. One in 41 women in South Africa will develop this cancer during her lifetime.

CANCER of the cervix is the most common cancer among South African women. One in 41 women in South Africa will develop this cancer during her lifetime.

Cervical cancer is preventable by carrying out cervical smears, which can detect the abnormalities preceding invasive cancer

Population-based screening programmes in other parts of the world have shown that the number of new cases of cervical cancer were reduced, though the programmes have been less than perfect.

Younger women often present with low-grade intraepithelial lesions, a type of abnormal growth of cells on the surface of the cervix. Most of these abnormalities revert to normal on their own. But older women with abnormalities are more likely to develop cancer.

It takes about 10 to 20 years for precursors to become invasive cancer.

The recommendations of the national cancer screening programme, which has been accepted as official South African health policy, are that:

Women aged 30 or more should have three free cervical smears. These should be about 10 years apart;

Screening has been shown to reduce the mortality from cervical cancer by 67percent and is considered to be the most cost-effective option for South Africa;

If a woman has specific symptoms or a previously abnormal smear or there are clinical indications, she may have free cervical smears in addition to the three;

If a woman wants more than three routine screening smears, she must pay for the extra ones herself;

If a woman is 55 or older when she has her first smear and it is normal, no further smears should be done .

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