Cervical Cancer is the second most common malignancy that afflicts and kills women, next only to breast cancer. It is a gynecologic disease, a malignancy of the cervix caused by the sexually transmitted infection Human Papilloma Virus or HPV of the high risk type. When the virus is left long untreated, it may develop into the deadly cervical cancer.
CERVICAL CANCER IN NUMBERS
Worldwide, half a million women are diagnosed of cervical cancer annually, and half of them will die of the disease. 80% of these deaths comes from developing countries, including the Philippines.
In the country, there are more than 6,676 new cases each year; 2,832 of which will die in the same year because 2/3 of the time they are diagnosed in the late stages
For every 4 Filipino women who survive breast cancer, only 2-3 survive cervical cancer
The Philippine’s “Cancer Facts and Estimates” tumor registry covers only 25% of the country’s statistics (Metro Manila and Rizal Province), which means the actual situation may be underestimated.
WOMEN AT RISK
has or had STDs (HPV, Chlamydia, Herpes Simplex 2 especially HIV)
engaged in sex as early as 14 years old, or 2 years from menarche
has or had 6 or more sexual partners, and use of estradiol
has seven children or more, and had an early pregnancy at 17 or less.
smokes, or is exposed to second-hand smoke
has a weak immune system
Filipino women in low-income families are known to be exposed to these risks. Moreover they
(1) have no funds to afford vaccination, screening or treatment;
(2) live in areas where geography hinders access of facilities;
(3) have little to no access to media thus unaware about the disease and;
(4) cannot comprehend the message of the cervical cancer prevention campaign
These factors increase their likelihood of developing cervical cancer.
Late stage diagnosis which make up 2/3 of the new cases, accounts for most of cervical cancer deaths. Thus, if any of the above-mentioned risks applies to a woman, she is encouraged to get screened either with Pap Smear or Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid. The most ideal screening tool though is the HPV DNA Test, but it is unaffordable for public health programs.
The enumerated financial, geographical, and informational barriers give women a hard time getting access to preventive procedures against cervical cancer. Thus, the Single Visit Approach or SVA was recommended based from the Clinical Epidemiologic Unit - UP-PGH, NIH research study, and is currently being used in CECAP's cervical cancer prevention and control campaign in grassroots communities.
THE SINGLE VISIT APPROACH
The Single-visit approach is considered “the most efficient and effective strategy to prevent cervical cancer in the low resource setting”, according to the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention, 1999. It combines counselling, screening and treatment all in one visit.
Step 1: Counselling
empowers women with the awareness that cancer can be treated if diagnosed early, and prevented through healthy lifestyle and vaccination. Group and individual counselling are offered in all CECAP centers everyday, during clinic visit.
Additional lay forums, and information campaigns focuses also on this empowerment.
Step 2: Screening
She then undergoes a whole body assessment, followed by the visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid, and pelvic exam. This includes also breast examination
Early detection through screening would pave the way to early treatment and higher survival
Step 3: Treatment
If the test is positive, not suspicious for cervical cancer and meets the criteria for immediate treatment at the primary level of care, the woman undergoes cryotherapy, a procedure wherein the lesions are destroyed through freezing of the cervix with compressed Carbon Dioxide or Nitrous Oxide
If the woman is already suspected of cervical cancer or lesions which involve 75% or more of the cervix which extends to the vagina or the endocervical canal, she is referred to secondary or tertiary health facilities where she may get a complete diagnosis (biopsy), and treatment in the form of surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy if indicated.
OTHER SOURCE OF INFORMATION
Save the Cervix is an informational website featuring stories of women who has or had cervical cancer. It was created by then students of De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde, Lea Llave and Janielle Sabio. Currently being supported by CECAP, the website can be visited for further information on cervical cancer, its cause, stages, symptoms, prevention and treatment, all explained simply for public comprehension.