Dispelling the myths about cervical cancer

Find out the truth behind the myths of cervical cancer, and how you can protect yourself (and your daughter) from getting infected.

There are several cervical cancer myths floating about. But what are some of the most crucial facts you must know about this disease? Well, you don't go have to google anything. We are here to help you with that.

Cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer among women in Singapore.1 However, it is preventable and can be curable if it is treated in the pre-cancerous stage.2

There have been great efforts made over the past few years to increase awareness about cervical cancer and the ways to prevent it. This includes dispelling the common myths about cervical cancer to help women (and parents) better understand cervical cancer prevention.

Dispelling cervical cancer myths

If you’d like to know more about cervical cancer and how to protect yourself and your daughter, check out the top cervical cancer myths, and the truth behind them:

cervical cancer myths

Cervical Cancer Myths #1: It is not common, it can never happen to me

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women worldwide, with approximately 500,000 new cases diagnosed annually and around 270,000 deaths attributed to cervical cancer each year.3 In Singapore, cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer among women.1

A total of 911 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed from 2008-2012 and 360 deaths were reported for the same period.1

Thus, it is best to do all you can to protect yourself from getting infected.

Cervical Cancer myths

Cervical Cancer Myths #2: I am not at risk as there is no history of such a disease in my family

There are still some women all around the world who choose not to get screened for cervical cancer because they believe that they are not at risk because they have no family history of the disease.

However, almost all cases of cervical cancer occur in women with no previous family history as it is linked to infection with the common virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) .4

To date, there are more than 100 different sub-types of HPV6, but only 15 HPV types has been classified as high risk for development of cervical cancer.4 The most common high risk HPV types are HPV 16, 18, 31 and 45.4

Cervical Cancer Myths #3: Getting cervical cancer is linked to being sexually promiscuous

HPV is typically transmitted through sexual intercourse with multiple partners and contact at the genital area, and women with multiple partners are at risk of being infected by more than one type of HPV .5

However, a woman can still be infected from having just one partner who has had multiple sex partners.5

cervical cancer myths

Cervical Cancer Myths #4: I am feeling well; I do not have HPV infection

Most HPV infections occur without signs or symptoms, which is why regular screening and prevention are critical.6

As the cancer progresses, the infected person may experience signs and symptoms such as6:

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, in between periods or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul smell
  • Lower abdominal pain or pain during intercourse

The early signs of cervical cancer are silent, so women above the age of 25 years should go for screening through regular Pap smears. This can detect any change in their cervical cells.7

cervical cancer myths

Cervical Cancer Myths #5: If I have a normal pap smear, it means I will not have it. I do not need to go for screening again.

Contrary to what most people think, a single Pap smear is not enough to protect you from cervical cancer. This is because the makeup of the cervical cells tends to change over time.

A normal Pap smear result does not mean that you will never have cervical cancer, ever. You should go for your regular Pap smear once every 3 years. This, especially if you are aged between 25 and 69 years old and are sexually active.8

cervical cancer myths

Cervical Cancer Myths #6: Pap smear screening is effective, HPV vaccination is unnecessary

It is important to note that the Pap smear and the HPV vaccination play different roles in helping women prevent cervical cancer.

A Pap Smear Test is a screening test to check for the changes in the cells of the cervix which may develop into cancer later.8 On the other hand, the HPV vaccination can help prevent certain HPV infections and help to reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer.7

It is best to consult your doctor for advice when it comes to getting the HPV vaccination.

Did the facts presented above help to dispel some of the myths that you had about cervical cancer? Do seek the advice of your doctor to find out how you can protect yourself and your daughter from cervical cancer.

References:

  1. Singapore Cancer Registry Interim Annual Registry Report, Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore, 2008-2012
  2. Health Factsheet – A Publication of the National Registry of Diseases Office, Singapore, 8 April 2013
  3. Descamps D et al. Human Vaccines 2009; Vol 5: 1-9
  4. Baseman JG and Koutsky LA(2005): The epidemiology of human papillomavirus infections, J Clin Virology; 32S:S16-24
  5. Mayo Clinic, HPV infection: www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/basics/risk-factors/con-20030343 (Last accessed 29 September 2014)
  6. Health Promotion Board Singapore Website: Cervical Cancer:www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/dandc-article/600 (Last accessed 29 September 2014)
  7. The Health Promotion Board Singapore Website: FAQs on Human Papillomavirus(HPV) and HPV Vaccination: www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/8768  (Last accessed 02 April 2014)
  8. Health Promotion Board Singapore Website: Pap smear Procedure: www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/3646  (Last accessed 15 April 2014)

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Also read: 8 important cervical cancer facts all empowered women should know