Vaccination against cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the second most common form cancer in women (after breast cancer). Cervical cancer takes some time to develop. The development period may take several months, or even several years. Furthermore, cervical cancer does not develop in a healthy mucous membrane (also known as inner lining). First, precancerous conditions occur in cervical cells. Timely screening can help identify such changes, manage them, and thus prevent the development of cancer.
It is believed that human papillomaviruses (HPV) are responsible for 99.7% of cases of cervical cancer. HPV accounts for around 200 types of virus. The majority of these viruses cause warts and are not dangerous. Around 30 forms of this virus infect the inner lining of genital area, and around half cause genital warts (or condylomata acuminata, warts in pudental canals). Around 14 types of HPV can cause cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 are very dangerous forms of virus, and there is a high risk that cancer may develop from them. HPV mainly spreads through sexual activity.
Protection against cervical cancer:
- primary prevention – preventive vaccination;
- secondary prevention – for example, Papanicolaou smear, doctor’s examination, colonoscopy, etc.
The cervical cancer vaccine is a worthwhile step for almost every woman to take. The younger a woman is, the better the reaction from her immune system will be and the longer she will remain protected. Girls are advised to have this vaccine before reaching the age of 15 and starting sexual activity. However, the vaccine is also effective for elderly women, even if they already have a strain of HPV.