As it is cervical cancer awareness month, we wanted to break down the myths about Cervical cancer and bring facts to the table. As cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer worldwide in women ages 15-44, one of the ways we can help prevent this form of cancer is through education.
So, it’s time for us TLN girls to go Myth-busting.
Myth: Only women get cervical cancer?
Fact: No. While women are the biggest group who develop cervical cancer, anyone who has a cervix is at risk. This includes transmen, non-binary individuals, and intersex people. These groups are often forgotten about in cervical cancer education and regularly missed with smear testing due to their gender.
Myth: If you have HPV, you’ll probably get cervical cancer
Fact: Actually, HPV is very common but cervical cancer is not. Like with more infections and diseases there are many different forms of HPV and there are certain “high-risk” forms that can be identified and monitored as they are known causes of the cancer.
Myth: Women with HPV will experience warning signs
Fact: The reality is there are very few HPV “warning signs” and this can be missed due there not being an overall education about them. Low-risk HPV types can cause things like genital warts, but the high-risk types can go completely undetected. This is why getting a regular smear test is crucial.
Myth: Well, you get signs when you develop the cancer then
Fact: Once again, no. There is a reason cervical cancer is known as the “silent killer”. While some women do experience symptoms, like:
- bleeding or discharge after intercourse, between periods or after sex
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Most women do not get any symptoms, and the main way of detecting abnormalities that led to or could be cancer is by getting a smear test.
Myth: I got the HPV vaccines, so I don’t need a smear test
Fact: The vaccine only protects against two of the high risk forms of HPV, and even then, the vaccine is only fully effective IF the individual has not been exposed to HPV. So every individual with a cervix needs to get tested regularly.
Myth: It’ll be a long wait for diagnosis
Fact: In the UK, there is a system in place to make sure this form of cancer is taken seriously once any abnormalities are detected in the initial smear test. Following a referral to a gynaecologist on average, patients have a 14-day wait which significantly improves the survival rate as treatment can be started quickly and within relatively early stages of the cancer when smear tests are done routinely.