5 cervical cancer myths and facts to be aware of

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 1 Feb 2024

Also known as a ‘silent killer’, cervical cancer often produces no signs or symptoms in its early stages. It is the second most common cancer in women, and is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in women between age 35 and 44. Women’s health practitioners promote regular PAP tests are fundamental to early detection and treatment.

Understanding cervical cancer

According to the HPV Information Centre, cervical cancer is the 11th most common cancer in women across Singapore and holds the 5th position in prevalence among women aged 15 to 44. But what exactly is cervical cancer?

This malignancy begins in the cervix and often progresses without early symptoms, making early detection vital. The primary cause is typically due to certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which are transmitted through sexual contact.

Because of its silent progression it is recommended that young women both get the HPV vaccine and schedule regular Pap smear tests, that may offer both prevention and early detection. Raising awareness and educating women about the importance of HPV vaccines and regular cervical cancer tests is key to better health outcomes.

Common myths and facts about cervical cancer

Here, we unravel some widespread misconceptions surrounding cervical cancer, replacing them with evidence-based facts.

Myth 1: only sexually active women are at risk

A pervasive myth suggests that only sexually active women are at risk of cervical cancer. While it is true that HPV, a leading contributor, is often transmitted through sexual contact, it is crucial to understand that the risk factors are multifaceted. Essentially, anyone with a cervix can face a potential risk, making universal awareness and preventive measures all the more critical.

Myth 2: cervical cancer cannot be prevented

On the contrary, prevention is possible and can be effective. Key measures, like the administration of the HPV vaccine and regular Pap smear screenings, have been shown to curtail the risk of developing cervical cancer. These interventions are key proactive steps.

Myth 3: HPV vaccine is only for young girls

The HPV vaccine’s protective scope extends beyond young girls; it is recommended for both boys and girls, men and women. HPV strains are linked with many types of cancer (including cervical cancer) therefore it is recommended that all tweens/teens receive their vaccines before they are sexually active. Remember boys/men can spread HPV to female sexual partners, therefore vaccinating males also means protecting females.

Myth 4: pap smear tests for cancer

The misconception that Pap smear tests directly diagnose cancer needs rectification. In reality, these tests are designed to detect abnormal cells that may lead to cervical cancer, providing a crucial window for early intervention. This preemptive approach helps mitigate the risk before the disease fully manifests.

Myth 5: if you have HPV, you will definitely get cervical cancer

Although HPV is a significant risk factor for cervical cancer, it is essential to note that not all HPV infections will culminate in cancer. A substantial number of HPV infections may resolve spontaneously without escalating into more severe health complications.

The role of regular screening in preventing cervical cancer

The lynchpin in the battle against cervical cancer lies in the power of regular screening. Pap smear and HPV testing are key tools for early detection, with specific recommendations on the frequency and target age groups for screening. Adhering to these recommendations can potentially enhance early detection rates, paving the way for timely interventions.

Vaccination: a key preventative measure

Similarly, the cervical cancer vaccine targeting HPV stands out as a key preventive measure. Understanding the vaccine’s eligibility criteria and benefits can lead you to make informed decisions about vaccination, minimising the risk of cervical cancer. This proactive step is also crucial in diminishing the incidence of cervical cancer, showcasing the vaccine’s role as a focus in prevention efforts.

How to access services in Singapore

Singapore’s healthcare landscape offers many services tailored to women’s health, including full-body check-up for ladies that will often encompass cervical cancer and possibly HPV vaccines. Women’s clinics across the island offer a supportive environment for women to take charge of their health.

Towards a future free from cervical cancer

Dispelling myths and embracing facts is fundamental in the battle against cervical cancer. It is important to encourage discussion, debunk misconceptions, and promote factual knowledge among your loved ones. Through regular screenings and consideration of HPV vaccination, tangible strides can be made in preventing cervical cancer.

On this World Cancer Day, let’s commit to spreading awareness and taking actionable steps towards safeguarding women’s health against cervical cancer. Feel free to speak to an Osler Health doctor at your GP clinic in Singapore today to find out more about relevant health screening services.

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