Women who experience sex before they are 20 years and women with multiple partners are seriously at risk of having cervical cancer.
Women who bleach also stand a chance of getting cervical cancer due to the dangerous chemical substance called steroids, which predisposes them to cervical cancer. Women who smoke are also likely to have breast cancer.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, Mrs Gertrude Anteh, Principal Midwifery Superintendent at the Ridge Hospital, explained that before age 20, the cervix of the woman had not been fully developed and frequent sex exposed them to getting Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) on the cervix. HPV is a germ that causes rashes on the cervix, which develops into cancer.
Mrs. Anteh noted that though the early small rash could appear in a woman when she is in her 20s, it takes many years to develop into cervical cancer in women between the ages of 40 and 60 years.
Cervical cancer, like all cancers, develops slowly, over a period of years, from cells that have changed.
In the early stage, these changes are small that they are like a “rash” called dysphasia.
The small rash, caused by a HPV germ, often causes no symptoms, making it very difficult for women to know they have such cancer.
The early stages of cervical cancer may be completely asymptomatic. Vaginal bleeding, contact bleeding or a vaginal mass may indicate the presence of malignancy.
In addition, moderate pain during sexual intercourse and vaginal discharge are symptoms of cervical cancer. In an advanced stage, metastases may be present in the abdomen, lungs or elsewhere.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include: loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, single swollen leg, heavy bleeding from the vagina, leaking of urine or faeces from the vagina, and bone fractures.
Mrs Anteh noted that everybody was at risk and explained that cervical cancer could be treated with cryotherapy when detected early. Cryotherapy, which uses cold gas, freezes the rash and stops it from growing and developing into a cancer.
The procedure takes only 15 minutes and may cause some discomfort, abdominal cramps, she said. “After the treatment, your cervix is like any other wound, therefore it must be protected so that it can heal and not become infected,” she explained.
The small rush in some do heal by itself whilst in other women it does not but develops into a large “sore” on the cervix, which is termed cervical cancer.
She noted that HPV testing could reduce the incidence of grade 2 or 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or cervical cancer when detected by subsequent screening among women within 32-38 years of age.
Mrs. Anteh advised that women who had undergone treatment should not have sexual relations for at least four weeks after treatment, desist from inserting fingers into their vagina when washing to ensure a proper healing of the wound.
“Young women from 25 years who have not undergone the screening should endevour to do so for their own good health wise.”
Mrs. Ante said the Ghana Cervicare Project would this year institute a “Well Woman and Well Man” programme to enable Ghanaians undergo special examination for cervical and prostrate cancers every month.
The programme which will be housed at the Ridge Hospital will aim at reducing the increasing rate of the cancers among Ghanaians.
She said for the smooth take-off of the programme, the hospital was renovating the Family Planning Department of the Hospital, adding that equipment to be used for the project were ready.
She said the department would be undertaking breast cancer screening and treatment in addition to the treatment for cervical as well as prostrate cancers.
Mrs. Anteh advised women who had gone through the test and proved negative to undergo the test again in five years and urged all women from 25 years to undergo the cervical and breast cancer screening to know their condition.