Men only: What I learned from a doc about cervical cancer
January is cervical cancer awareness month, one of the cancers that specifically affect women.
I was at the Medicross clinic in Kilimani midweek to do my annual thorough medical checkup for the first time ever.
And other than eating right, drinking lots of water, and exercising/joining the gym, which I’m yet to do, those resolutions included doing an annual medical checkup.
In fact to all dudes, once you turn 40, it is recommended you get annual medical checkups – though I’m yet to come to terms with the idea of any medic, male or female, putting a finger up there to check your prostrate for cancer. Amadioha forbid!
More seriously, though, I did get to speak to the personable and erudite Dr John Macharia on the topic of cervical cancer, and as this space once a month touches on those serious health matters – (next month, my men, I may reveal why it is not nice, health-wise, to drink whiskey with Viagra) – and this is what my talk with the Medicross medic revealed.
Cervical cancer affects the lower part of the uterus and is associated with the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) which is sexually transmitted.
So if you notice genital warts on the groin area or surrounding skin of a potential bedmate, ladies, perhaps it is preferable to put off the action.
However, few women folks with HPV, and there are many non-cancer causing ones, actually go ahead to develop cervical cancer.
Factors that may increase chances of getting cervical cancer include a depressed immune system, as in the case with some people with HIV, obesity, that old Satan smoking (kuvuta sigara, especially for women, was last cool in 1981 with those movie ads of drop dead ladies smoking ‘Embassy Kings’ as the man drives a top-down red Mustang through empty country roads) and, of course, having multiple sexual partners.
A friend was telling me last weekend about a mutual pal, a working woman in her early 30s, who has a married boyfriend, an older sponsor, a Cameroonian pipe layer and a Ben Ten; and she services them all at least once a week. But that is a ‘Men Only’ for another Saturday. Attention! If you tell us columnists your/other people’s secrets, we’ll turn them into articles.
Anyway, Dr Macharia says that symptoms of this disease can be a foul smelling discharge from the vagina, bleeding during intercourse, period spotting and chronic pelvic pain.
The upside with cervical cancer is that it is a slowly progressive disease, stretching from 10 to 15 years. So if a young woman of 25 gets that strain of HPV + other causative factors are in play, she can be 40 years old before the cancer actually manifests itself in her body.
Dr Macharia says at Medicross, the screening would involve a pap smear that takes and examines the cells around the cervix, or via a biopsy. A screening test of this kind is recommended once a year for women.
Early detection for cervical cancer, as with all cancers, is the trick to dealing with it. If detected at the pre-cancerous stage, a small surgery can get rid of the cancer forever.
At Stage One cancer, it may require surgery with either chemotherapy or radiation.
At Stage Two, it will need both chemotherapy and radiation, with probably a surgery that removes the entire uterus to prevent the spread of the cancer to other areas of the body.
At Stage Three, the cancer has spread to other tissues around the affected area, and at this point, surgery is of no help. The client has to undergo cycles of radiation and constant chemotherapy.
Finally, at Stage 4, the patient just gets palliative care, to increase comfort and ‘quality of life’ while getting medicines like morphine to lessen the pain.
In the Thom Jones short story ‘I Want to Live,’ the heroine says of morphine as she suffers from cancer: ‘O, God, thank God for morphine! Who invented this wonderful drug? Knight him, Queen! Award him The Nobel.’
Of course every girl from 10 years old to any woman can go get a cheap shot of anti-HPV vaccine. It will protect them from this cancer, the second most common among women (average age, 44)
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