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cervical cancer logoWhat is Cervical Cancer?

Our female reproductive system consists of two ovaries, two fallopian tubes , the uterus (womb) that is attached to the cervix and the vagina. The cervix is also called the neck of the womb. It is made up of millions of cells. Changes can occur to these cells which, if left untreated, can develop into cervical cancer. Persistent infection of the cervix with the high risk human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the tenth most common cancer among women in Singapore.* It is however a highly preventable cancer because we are able to catch the precancerous stages caused by the persistent high risk or cancer-causing HPV infection using a very reliable and affordable cervical smear test.

All women between the ages of 25 and 69 years old who has ever had sexual activity are recommended to go for their regular cervical smear (Also known as Pap test) as part of the national cervical screening program. Regular screening can help to prevent you from getting cervical cancer in future.

* Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph (1968 – 2017)

 

 

Risk Factors

HPV infection is very common.

Fortunately for most of us, most HPV infection are transient because our immune system will get rid of the infection just like it gets rid of the common flu virus. However, we do know that for some of us, there are risk factors that may allow the HPV to stay longer in our body to cause changes that may increase our risk of getting cervical cancer in future.

These risk factors include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Sexual intercourse at an early age
  • Previous HPV infection or exposure
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • A history of sexually transmitted infection such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea
  • Immunosuppressive conditions such as having HIV infection, taking medication that can lower your immune system or recipient of a solid organ transplant.

Even if you are healthy and you do not have any of the risk factors above, going for your regular cervical screening is still very important because it is not yet possible to guarantee that your exposure to HPV infection will not lead to cervical cancer in future.

Regular cervical screening will help protect you from this risk.