The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus which connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer is the third leading cause of female cancer in Malaysia. It is mainly caused by an infection called the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Malaysia has a population of 11.55 million women aged 15 and above. Current estimates indicate that 1,682 women are diagnosed with the disease every year, and 944 women die of it.
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynaecological cancer to prevent with the appropriate measures.
Sexual activity greatly increases the risk of cervical cancer. Women who have more than 3 sexual partners, frequent sexual contact and early sexual intercourse (before age 17) face greater chances of being infected with HPV, thus potentially developing cervical cancer.
High parity - giving birth to 7 or more children also heightens the likelihood of cervical cancer. Lastly, smokers are at twice the risk of contracting the disease.
Recognising the Symptoms
Look out for these signs:
Unusual/Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
Bleeding/spotting after periods
Abnormal vaginal discharge after intercourse
Unexplained, persistent pelvic pain
Pain/bleeding during sexual intercourse
Get your HPV vaccination as young as 13 years old. The Malaysian government provides it free of charge to students, or you can get vaccinated at private hospitals for RM300-1,200 depending on the type of vaccine.
Schedule a pap smear test at least once every 3 years. It is recommended to undergo annual pap smear testing once a woman is sexually active, but if the first two consecutive smear results are negative, screening every three years is recommended. This is a very affordable procedure at only RM40-80 at private hospitals, and only RM1 at government facilities.
Alternatively, you may get a colposcopy which aids in the diagnosis of micro-invasive cervical cancer. It is more costly, with a price range of RM150-500.