33% BELOW 15 EXPOSED TO SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, AT HIGHER RISK OF DEVELOPING CERVICAL CANCER SAYS ONCOLOGIST
MARCH 22, 2019 @1.23PM
Women who have higher number of sexual partners and younger women are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
Dr Ragu Shan, Gynaecological Oncologist, Assunta Hospital explained that this is because teenagers who start engaging in sexual intercourse below the age of 16 are more likely to have other partners down the line.
“Having someone who had partners before you, increases the risk of developing cervical cancer. In Malaysia, 30 – 33% of girls below the age of 15 have already been exposed to intercourse. 50% of them would have already one partner,” he said.
Other causes for cervical cancer include smoking which increases the risk of any cancer, women who use oral contraceptives for a long time and women who have many children.
Risk factor for cervical cancer
“Age is one of them. As long as you live, your cells can be affected by any environmental agent and they can adapt or respond to it. There are two peaks; one between the age of 30 – 39 and the other is 60 – 64.”
“Compared to these two age groups, the younger you get cancer, the higher chances you’re going to die. The older you get cancer, better the chances of survival and better the chances of cure,” said Ragu.
The misconception where younger persons are deemed stronger and would survive treatment is equally wrong.
“Most people believe that younger persons have better immune system. However, the fact that the cancer has affected you when you’re younger simply proves that it is much more virulent, much more aggressive and the chances are that they are not going to respond to it.”
In comparison to younger persons, the type of cancer that would affect older women are the types that are slower, they are easily differentiated, are more predictable and they are more responsive to treatment because the cancer is not that aggressive and it has affected a women of an older age group when their immune system itself is not so good.
Signs and symptoms
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, sudden on-set of pelvic pain, pain during intercourse are vague symptoms but they tell you that something is actually wrong.
Ragu emphasised that these are not the only symptoms, as a person may experience weight loss, haematuria and blood in the stool which needs equal attention.
Earlier in his talk, Ragu also expressed dismay that the uptake for early cervical cancer screening was still low due to the discomfort that involves the examination of the perineal region.
“Some women also prefer the test to be done by another female, who may not be where they are. Nevertheless, motivation and education is very important for women to understand their bodies and know that probably doing this is going to save their lives,” he said.
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