Cervical cancer is preventable. You can now take a new test that offers higher accuracy in detecting the human papillomavirus (HPV) strains that are associated with cervical cancer.
With early detection, cervical cancer can be prevented and treated. In Singapore, it is the 10th most common women’s cancer.
Over the years, its incidence has significantly decreased as a result of early treatment options such as the Pap test, which detects abnormal changes in the cervix.
WHAT IS HPV?
HPV is a virus that is as common as the cold virus, and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. HPV infections mostly have little impact on our health as our immune system is usually able to naturally clear them up. However, a persistent infection may lead to cervical cancer.
HPV TEST: NEW AND MORE ACCURATE
More than 100 HPV strains exist. Of these, 13 strains can lead to cervical cancer, which can take up to 15 years to develop. Now, a new and more accurate HPV test makes it easier to detect the presence of the virus. The test is performed in the same way as a Pap test, which requires a sample of cells from the cervix.
HIGH CHANCE OF SURVIVAL WHEN DETECTED EARLY
Regular screening allows early detection of pre-cancer stage changes in the cervix, and prompt treatment. Early treatment is effective and can lead to a more than 90 percent chance of survival.
Dr Ida Suzani Binti Ismail (Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University Hospital) says that women don’t get themselves checked for cervical cancer because they lack knowledge and awareness about it. “The development of cervical cancer is due to persistent infection from a high-risk HPV. One Pap test will only protect you from cervical cancer for up to three years. This is why regular screenings are important,” she adds.
GET TESTED AT A LOW COST
Getting tested for HPV and cervical cancer is convenient. You can get both tests done at any GP clinic listed under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS). If you’re 25-29 years old, you should get a Pap test every three years. You don’t have to take an HPV test at this age as your immune system should be able to get rid of the virus easily. However, if you’re 30 years old and above, an HPV test is highly recommended to detect cancer-causing HPV strains.
Both tests are heavily subsidised under the Screen for Life programme at just $5 each for Singaporeans and $2 each for CHAS cardholders.
PROTECT YOUR DAUGHTERS
Put your daughters on the path of prevention through vaccination. Three HPV vaccines are now available in the market.
Immunisation is your best bet for protecting your daughter from cervical cancer. It is strongly recommended for younger women aged nine to 26 years.
The vaccination is available at several GP clinics or through the Health Promotion Board’s school vaccination programme for eligible Singaporean and Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) students in secondary school.