What is Cervical Cancer?
- The cervix is the lower part of the uterus in the female reproductive system.
- When cells of the cervix become abnormal they can slowly develop into lesions that, if untreated, may lead to cervical cancer.
- According to the World Health Organisation, every year more than 270,000 women die from cervical cancer. In Nepal, cervical cancer is the number one cancer affecting women.
- Cervical cancer is an entirely preventable disease. Abnormal cells can be detected by screening and treated simply before becoming cancerous.
- We can reduce the incidence of abnormal cells by vaccinating against a virus that causes the cell abnormalities. This prevents cervical cancer from developing.
How do you get Cervical Cancer?
- 99% of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- The virus is transmitted through skin-skin contact, usually genital or sexual contact.
- Once contracted, the virus can infect cells of the cervix and cause them to become abnormal. These abnormal cells may grow into precancerous lesions.
- Most of these lesions spontaneously heal and cause no significant effects, however, in some cases the lesions persist and become cancerous.
- If these lesions are not detected and treated, cervical cancer may result.
What is the Cervical Cancer Vaccine?
- There are two recognised cervical cancer vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardisal is the vaccine that has been used to date in Nepal.
- The vaccine is recommended by the World Heath Organisation. More than 60 million vaccines have been delivered worldwide.
- Up to 80% of men and women have been exposed to HPV but may not show any symptoms.
- The Gardisal vaccine protects against four types of HPV; strains 6, 11, 16 and 18. Between 70-80% of cervical cancers are caused by virus strains 16 and 18 .
- Girls aged 11-13 years who receive the vaccine prior to infection (before sexual contact) will be 70-80% less likely to develop cervical cancer than those who haven't had the vaccine.
- The vaccine has three doses. After the first dose you need a second at two months and a third at 6 months. For the vaccine to be effective you need to receive all three doses.
- NACCF have received vaccine free of cost with the help of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF), the Axios Gardasil Access Program.