While September is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, us women should be taking care of ourselves all year round. We know it’s hard though – there’s so much else keeping us busy, from our families to our work, and everything in between.
However, you’re the only person who can make your health a priority. So why not start by learning more about cervical cancer, so you can educate yourself about your body and protect it as much as possible? Here are four myths vs facts about this type of cancer, that you really need to know:
- Cervical cancer is hereditary
While some cancers may be hereditary, like breast cancer and ovarian cancer, cervical cancer is largely not. It is mostly caused by the HPV virus, which is a sexually transmitted infection. As with all diseases, that is not the only risk factor for cervical cancer – others include smoking and a weakened immune system.
- I only need a screening if I notice symptoms
One of the reasons for conducting a cervical cancer screening (also called a Pap smear) is to detect cervical cancer as early as possible, so that it can be treated before it worsens. The earlier it’s found, the easier this type of cancer can be treated.
For this reason, many women have a Pap smear once a year – however, if you have no additional risks and your previous screenings have all shown no abnormalities, doctors advise that you have a screening at least once every three years. Many medical aid schemes, like Fedhealth, will cover the actual cervical cancer screening/pathology from their screening risk benefit, i.e it’s paid by them and doesn’t come out of your day-to-day benefits (however it’s worth noting that the corresponding consult would come out of your day-to-day benefits). Fedhealth pays for this screening once every three years for women aged 21 to 65 years.
- Women with cervical cancer can’t have children
Depending on the severity of the cervical cancer, a patient may need to undergo radiation, chemotherapy and a hysterectomy. Nowadays though, there are still options that may allow patients to have children afterwards, if the cancer is caught early and they are low risk. Doctors may advise patients to freeze their eggs before they start treatment, in order to give them more options when it comes to fertility post treatment.
- Older women don’t need screenings
This isn’t true at all – in fact, doctors advise that all women age 21 – 65 undergo regular screenings for cervical cancer, after which you should discuss the options and benefits of Pap smears with your doctor. In some instances, where you are high risk, your doctor may advise that you continue to have regular screenings past the age of 65.
We hope this helps you take better care of this vital aspect of your health. If you have any queries or concerns, it’s always best to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss them.