Cervical cancer is the second leading "killer of women" after breast cancer. An early cancer diagnosis has the potential to improve cancer treatment.
Men's and women's reproductive health is critical. However, women face an extensive list of reproductive health issues, including cervical cancer, also known as cervical sarcoma.
Cervical cancer is a cancer that develops in the cervix, the canal that links the vagina with the uterus. The primary cause is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is spread through sexual activity.
Unfortunately, more than half of all sexually active individuals become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Not all of them, however, develop into cervical cancer.
Each month, around 493,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, according to the WHO. And this cancer has claimed the lives of 273,000 people. Every year, 15,000 new cases are discovered in Indonesia. Every day, 1-2 new cases are reported, and one of them will die. That indicates that every month, Indonesia loses 600–700 women of reproductive age, i.e., those over the age of 30. The average age of women diagnosed with cervical cancer is 45–54 years old.
This is incredibly heartbreaking. Many women are diagnosed with this illness at an advanced stage, when the disease has already spread to many organs of the body, necessitating more costly therapy and a greater risk of death.
We can avoid cervical cancer by maintaining reproductive health, getting HPV vaccinations, and detecting it early with VIA (Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid) examinations, Pap tests, or HPV tests. However, loyalty to your relationship is essential.
The good news is that if detected early, cervical cancer can be treated.
What is a VIA test?
Cancer screenings are not always inexpensive or simple to administer. People are hesitant to do it since it is costly and generally ineffective.
The Pap test, the HPV test, and the VIA test are the three alternatives for early detection of cervical cancer. The Pap test is frequently regarded as the gold standard for detecting cervical cancer. It aims to look for cellular abnormalities in the cervical canal.
Unfortunately, this test can be tough since it requires competent medical experts as well as a good and efficient laboratory.
Despite the fact that its effectiveness is less reliable and the cost is fairly high, the HPV test is equally worthwhile. An HPV test is performed to seek the virus's DNA; hence, it requires trained medical staff. This is why experts created the VIA test.
VIA is widely regarded as a low-cost, simple, and effective method of detecting cervical cancer as early as possible. According to WHO, the VIA test has a sensitivity of roughly 66–69% and a specificity of around 64–98% for detecting precancerous lesions.
Some individuals may deem it invalid due to its simplicity. However, the VIA test allows the doctor to see lesions and other abnormalities in the cervix immediately.
The VIA test technique is simple. Medical personnel will simply apply 3%–5% acetic acid to the cervix, followed by a visual inspection with a colposcope—a tool designed to enlarge the cervix, including the vagina and external genitalia. If the precancerous lesions have white patches or are called acetowhite epithelium, the test findings indicate (+).
A biopsy is recommended as a follow-up for this condition. If the cervix is normal, then it is (-). Inflammatory VIA indicates that the cervix is inflamed (cervicitis) or has other benign abnormalities (cervical polyps). Meanwhile, VIA cancer indicates the stage of cervical cancer discovered.
For more information on which cervical cancer screening plan is best for your specific case, speak with a medical practitioner.
Cervical cancer may be identified if you have the following symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause;
- sex-related bleeding;
- bleeding between periods or irregular periods, such as stronger or longer bleeding;
- watery vaginal discharge;
- pelvic discomfort;
- sex-related pain.
When should I take the VIA test?
The VIA test is suggested for sexually active women over the age of 21. Women between the ages of 35 and 40 should take this VIA test at least once and retake it every five years until they turn 55. Meanwhile, women aged 25 to 60 should be examined every three years.
In Indonesia, if your VIA test results are positive, the doctor will advise you to have an annual examination. If it is negative, the examination can be repeated every five years, as mentioned beforehand.
If you want to do the test, here are some prerequisites:
- you have already had sexual intercourse;
- you don't have menstruation;
- you are not currently pregnant;
- abstain from sexual intercourse 24 hours before the test.
The decision to have a health screening is highly personal and depends on our specific health conditions. Screening for cervical cancer is suggested earlier and more frequently for those at risk than for those who are not.
Schedule cervical cancer screenings with your doctor.