With cervical cancer awareness month approaching, many health professionals and organisations are focusing on emphasising the need to get tested. Dis-Chem is helping the cause, by making pap smears more affordable from August 3 to September 11.

Cervical, breast, and prostate cancer are some of the most common cancers, and increasingly affect youth in South Africa, according to Net Care. In fact, 1 in every 42 South African women has a lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer specifically.

According to oncologist Dr Karen Motilall, younger people often, incorrectly, think that cancer only affects older people. Of course, this is not true, and getting tested is important regardless of your age.

“I cannot emphasise enough that early detection can make an enormous difference and that many cancers are now curable if they are detected early, with various treatment options we can explore,” she said.

This is why everyone should take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by Dis-Chem. From August 3 to September 11, Dis-chem is offering pap smears at just R180 at their Wellness Clinics.

Answering a query from a Twitter user, Dis-Chem also said that they will include a breast exam too, provided the selected store you choose to go to has the facilities for it.

Cervical Cancer Awareness month is commemorated every year in September, in South Africa. Its purpose is to encourage women to do screening and prevent cancer. The goal of screening for cervical cancer is to find cervix cell changes and early cervical cancers before they cause symptoms.

According to Cipla, “Early detection of cervix cell changes means that treatment can be started before the cervical cancer has caused any symptoms, increasing the likelihood of the treatment being successful.”

“Regular Pap smear tests (in which cells taken from the cervix are looked at under a microscope) can detect the condition while it still pre-cancerous,” they said.

The HPV vaccination can also protect against cervical cancer. “While the HPV vaccine has helped to protect women from certain strains associated with cervical cancer, it is important to note that the vaccine does not provide full protection and girls who have had the HPV vaccine should still have regular PAP screenings,” Dr Motilall says.

What causes cervical cancer? 

Unlike most other cancers, cervical cancer is most commonly caused by a virus, called the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted disease. However, not everyone infected with HPV will get cervical cancer. Other factors that could play a role in getting this cancer can include your environment and your lifestyle.

“Like other cancers, cervical cancer begins when healthy cells turn into abnormal cells and start to grow out of control, forming a mass, or tumour. Cancer cells can spread from the cervix to other places/organs in the body,” explains Cipla.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer? 

In the early stages, cervical cancer often brings no symptoms. However, later on the cancer may cause vaginal bleeding (outside of periods), a vaginal discharge with a foul odour, and pelvic pain during intercourse.

Are their additional risk factors of cervical cancer?

There are many things which may heighten the risk of getting cervical cancer. Some of these factors include, early sexual activity, having other sexually transmitted infections, being a smoker, a high number of sexual partners, and a weak immune system, according to Cipla.

What is the treatment for cervical cancer? 

Commonly, chemotherapy is used to treat this cancer. Surgery and radiation are also options depending on how far the cancer has spread.

What to expect from a pap smear? 

For most who have not been for the test before, a pap smear can seem scary. However, there is nothing to be afraid of, and the test goes by very quickly.

After resting your feet in stirrups, the doctor will slowly insert a speculum into the vagina, to open and provide access to the cervix. Then, the doctor will scrape a small sample of cells from your cervix, according to Healthline.

Commonly, women only feel a slight push and irritation during the procedure, and after, you may experience mild discomfort or cramping.

You should consult a doctor if pain or excessive bleeding occurs after the test.

If you’d like a breast exam but your preferred Dis-Chem does not offer this exam, you can do a self-examination too. Here’s how to do it:

Picture: Twitter / Canadian Cancer Society Kingston (@CCS_KingstonFLA)

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