Saturday, April 12, 2014

Protect to Tell Female Blogger Event: Cervical Cancer Protection

Today I will be touching on a very serious topic, which is:
Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women worldwide, with approximately 500,000 new cases diagnosed annually. It is the 9th most common cancer in Singaporean women.

This is a very scary statistics and we definitely don't want to be the next victim. We should stay vigilant to protect ourselves and our loved ones from Cervical Cancer.

Let me share with you more about Cervical Cancer and the protection.

I attended "Protect to tell" female blogger event where professional doctors shared with us more knowledge on Cervical Cancer and how we can protect ourselves.

The event was held at Lady M @ One Fullerton.

We were being treated to some savories from Lady M. 

 I love the strawberry shortcake so much. The cake was very spongy, making it so delicious and yummy.

All right, after the brunch, it's time to begin the presentation proper.

First up, we have A/Professor Anne Goh, President of Singapore Pediatric Society, to open the session.

There have been great efforts made over the past few years to raise awareness about cervical cancer. Since the introduction of CervicalScreen and Singapore's pap smear screening programme, the rates of cervical cancer have dropped.

Despite the efforts, it still remain as one of the top 10 cancer in Singapore's women. Hence, there is a need to dispell the myths that people have to better educate and prevent cervical cancer.

Next up was Professor Tay Sun Kuie, Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, SGH. He was here to clear the myths about cervical cancer, pap smears and vaccination.

Myth 1: Cervical Cancer is not common, it can never happen to me.

This is definitely not true because cervical cancer can strike anyone of us (except the male because they don't have a cervix.) at any point of time. The women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are getting younger and younger, many are in their latest 30s or early 40s.

The number of Cervical Cancer cases in Singapore has been decreasing in the last 20 years because women take part in prevention programs.

Without these programs, cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer affecting women with 500,000 cases each year.

Myth 2: I am not at risk of Cervical Cancer as there is no such history in my family.

Almost all cases of Cervical Cancer occur in women with no family history of it.
Cervical Cancer is caused by a common virus - HPV. There are about 130 different types of HPV, but only 15 cause cancer.

The 4 most frequent and aggressive HPV types that cause cervical cancer worldwide are HPV 16, HPV 18, HPV 45 AND HPV 31.


Myth 3: Getting Cervical Cancer is linked to being sexually promiscuous.

This is also not true. Women an still be infected from having just one partner. 

HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact:
- Sexual intercourse or contact at the genital area
- Non-sexual contact (mother to infant during delivery)


Every sexually active women is at risk of being infected by HPV because it is so common and so easily transmitted.


Myth 4: I am feeling well, I do not have HPV infection.

Cancer causing HPV infection is silent. Infected individuals do not know that they are infected and may unknowingly spread the virus.

Early Cervical Cancer has no signs or symptoms, this is why regular screening and prevention are critical.

As the cancer progresses, these symptoms and signs include:
 - vaginal bleeding following intercourse or 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


Myth 5: If I have a normal Pap smear, it means I will not have cervical cancer.

A pap smear is a screening test to detect any changes in cervical cells. One normal Pap smear is not enough to protect you from Cervical Cancer. It just means that for that year, your cervical cells are normal but it cannot guarantee the future years.

In Singapore, all woman aged between 25 and 69 years-old who ever had sex are advised to have a Pap smear done once every 3 years. If you can afford, please do it every year to better protect ourselves.

Myth 6: Pap Smear Program is effective, HPV vaccination is unnecessary.

Pap smears and HPV vaccination play different roles in the holistic prevention of cervical cancer.

Pap smear detects changes in the cells of your cervix which may develop into cancer later.

Vaccination helps to prevent certain HPV infection and reduce the risk of developing cervical pre-cancers and Cervical Cancer. Vaccination should work for a lifetime. Vaccination is not recommended for pregnant ladies.


Myth 7: I am already sexually active, so the vaccine will not work for me.

Although the best time to vaccinate is prior to sexual debut, you can still go for it even after being sexually active. HPV vaccine has been proven to protect thousands of women in the clinical trials who were already sexually active.

Myth 8: My daughter is too young to be vaccinated. She won't be at risk of cervical cancer at the age of 10.

This is for better immunogenicity, immune response is stronger when vaccinating young.

Singapore has included HPV vaccination into it's National Childhood Immunization Programme starting from age 9-26 years. The decision to go for HPV vaccination is based on informed choice.

Myth 9: Vaccinating adolescents will encourage sexual promiscuity.

The main purpose of vaccination is to reduce risk of Cervical Cancer. Therefore vaccination should not encourage promiscuity.
                
Myth 10: I must wait for my daughters menses before vaccination.

Vaccination will not impact the onset of the menstrual cycle. The antibodies generated by the vaccine will not interfere with adolescent development.

The main side effects associated with the vaccine are - injection side pain, redness, low grade fever and fatigue.

Our last speaker, Dr Chua Yin Nin, Senior Consultant gynaecologist and gynaecological oncologist, Gleneagles Hospital.

Dr Chua shared with us more about Pap Smear Screening.

Cervical cancer can be prevented by finding the pre-cancer cells and treat them before they become cancer. This can be done through Pap Smear, a screening to detect the pre-cancer cells.

Remember to go for pap smears every 1-3 years if you fall in the above category.

You know what?

Bishan clinic is now offering free Pap smear screening. Call 6499 9133 to make your appointment now.

Shall end my post with a group photo with the lovely ladies.

Hope you girls find this post useful. Prevention is better than cure, go for pap smear and protect ourselves for cervical cancer.

Disclaimer: “Protect to Tell – Cervical Cancer Awareness” on 12th April 2014 Sat (the “Event”) was held as a lunch session, organised and sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Pte Ltd. I was not paid for participating in the Event. All personal views expressed here are entirely my own.

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