Cervical cancer: prevention saves lives
How Knowledge, Prevention, and Early Treatment Combat Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer presents a significant healthcare challenge, but screening and vaccination initiatives are radically changing the landscape, offering hope and effective solutions. In Italy, there are approximately 2,400 new cases each year, accounting for 1.3% of all cancers diagnosed in women. Thanks to prevention strategies and advanced therapeutic options, the five-year survival rate has reached 68%.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary culprit behind cervical cancer, transmitted through sexual contact. Most HPV infections resolve spontaneously, but some can progress into tumors. In addition to HPV, factors such as cigarette smoking, a poor diet, and obesity can increase the risk. Prevention plays a crucial role, with HPV vaccination as the primary tool, along with regular screening through Pap tests and HPV tests for early diagnosis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
In its early stages, cervical cancer may not present symptoms, making regular screenings essential for early diagnosis. Symptoms such as atypical bleeding, pelvic pain, and unusual discharge should prompt medical consultation. Screening through Pap tests and HPV tests allows for the detection of precancerous lesions or cancer in its early stages.
Treatment varies depending on the cancer stage and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biologic therapies. In early cases, minimally invasive procedures can eliminate precancerous lesions while preserving fertility. For more advanced tumors, hysterectomy or combination treatments may be necessary. Early diagnosis through regular screening significantly increases the chances of successful treatment.
The Importance of Prevention
Primary prevention through vaccination and secondary prevention through screening are the most effective weapons against cervical cancer. The Lombardy region, for example, has introduced the HPV test as the primary screening tool, highlighting the importance of a proactive approach to women’s health. Starting the screening journey at age 25 with the Pap test and continuing with the HPV test from age 30 onwards significantly improves the chances of preventing the cancer or diagnosing it in its early stages when treatment is most effective.
The fight against cervical cancer is an example of how knowledge, early diagnosis, and targeted treatments can save lives. Knowledge and awareness are essential to reduce the incidence of this disease and improve the quality of life for affected women.