Early detection crucial in the fight against cervical cancer

02 October 2017: September sees South Africa raise awareness of cervical cancer among South African women and how this serious disease can be overcome.

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among South African women. One in 39 South African women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and over half of all women diagnosed are between the ages of 35 and 55.

Graham Anderson, CEO of Profmed, a leading medical scheme exclusively available for graduate professionals, states that regular testing is crucial for women to ensure early detection of many cancers, especially cervical cancer. “Early detection is key in all forms of cancer. The problem with cervical cancer is that there are little to no early detection signs, making regular testing a necessity for all women,” says Anderson.

The easiest way to detect cervical cancer is by undergoing a Pap smear. This is where a scraping tool is used to gather cells from the opening of the uterus which are then examined under a microscope for any abnormalities. The process may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful.

“We urge women over 18 to have a Pap smear on an annual basis. As with most cancers, cervical cancer is treatable in its early stages and we at Profmed firmly believe that prevention is still better than cure. For this reason, Profmed covers all forms of Pap smears for our clients,” explains Anderson.

One of the leading causes of cervical cancer is the human papilloma virus (HPV), which accounts for around 80% of all cases in South Africa. HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted virus, with between 60% and 80% of sexually active people being infected.

Anderson explains that while not all cases of HPV will lead to cancer, it is imperative for women to understand that there is a vaccine available to ensure that there will be no health issues that result from HPV.

“The HPV vaccine is a valuable but underutilised tool, but the industry needs to work hard to overcome the stigma attached to the vaccine. However, if people are vaccinated and guarded against contraction of HPV, they can prevent themselves from ever getting infected. While there is a cost attached, it is significantly lower than the cost of long-term treatment for cancer or other HPV –related problems,” he says.

Profmed also provides full coverage for its members for the HPV vaccine for young girls and women between 9 and 27 years. Anderson urges all South African women to make sure their medical aid covers preventative test measures against cancer and other deadly diseases.

“Through early detection of cancer and regular screening, cancer can be treated and you can live a long and full life. With the constant innovation in cancer treatments, cancer isn’t the death sentence people think it is. However, you must take the initiative and undergo annual examinations,” concludes Anderson.

To find out more about this illness and how it can be detected, visit www.cansa.org.za or your nearest medical practitioner today.

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