The Jamaica Cancer Society would like all women to know these facts about cervical cancer:

1. Cervical cancer is the leading gynaecological cancer in Jamaica and the second cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women. According to the Ministry of Health, approximately 170 women died from cervical cancer in 2015.

2. Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens at the top of the vagina.

3. Cervical cancer can be prevented and cured, if it is diagnosed early.

4. The main risk factor for cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases. Consult your physician regarding vaccination and HPV testing.

5. Cervical cancer is preventable by doing an annual Pap smear test which is a simple procedure that can be done in a doctor’s office, health centre, hospital, or at the Jamaica Cancer Society. The Pap smear remains the gold standard of screening and can detect any abnormalities within the cervix before they become cancerous.

6. Schedule your Pap smear one week after your period.

7. Do not have sexual intercourse for at least 24 hours before your Pap test.

8. It is recommended that you do not douche or use creams or vaginal medications before your Pap test.

9. There are lifestyle changes that you can make to decrease your risk of developing cervical cancer — practise safe sex (use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases); eliminate smoking; get your annual Pap smear test; discuss HPV testing with your physician; keep your immune system strong by eating healthy meals; exercise and rest.

10. Cervical cancer often presents no symptoms in its early stages, which is why it is often referred to as a “silent killer”. But as the disease progresses, warning signs may present themselves. Examples include pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, painful urination, unusual discharge, abnormal menstrual cycles, pain or bleeding after sex, anaemia, urinary incontinence, and back pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

11. Cervical cancer is NOT a death sentence!

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