Written by Dr Haynes van der Merwe
Cervix cancer is the second most common cancer in women and the leading cause of cancer related deaths amongst women. In South Africa it is diagnosed at a late stage in the majority of affected women because of a delay of access to healthcare.
The good news is that cervix cancer is preventable. Prevention strategies include the following:
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination. Almost all cases of cervix cancer are caused by HPV and can therefore be prevented by this prophylactic vaccine. The vaccine is available since 2014 as part of the national immunization programme to grade 4 girls who are nine years of age or older. Research has shown the vaccine to be safe and very effective. Girls should receive 2 doses six months apart.
- Screening for cervical pre-cancer by regular Pap-smears or HPV testing. These screening tests are done to detect pre-cancer. These pre-cancerous lesions are quite easy to treat by removal of the affected area of the cervix and in doing so cancer can be prevented.
- Stop smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet.
Women are encouraged to take responsibility for their own health and make use of the available prevention strategies to prevent cervix cancer. Make sure that your daughters/young girls under your care receive the HPV vaccine during their Grade 4 year at school. Women 25 years of age or older should present for cervical screening at their nearest primary healthcare clinic, general practitioner or gynaecologist.