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Against Cervical Cancer: The Winning Strategy

Decrease the number of cancers of the cervix, it is possible, thanks to a better follow-up with regular control examinations, but also by protecting oneself better.

Nearly 3,000 new cervical cancers diagnosed each year in France and more than 1,000 deaths: a record always too heavy. However, the detection of 31000 upstream cancer lesions has made it possible, precisely, to avoid the evolution for the largest number towards a declared cancer. A chance for women followed in our country, who enjoy good supervision from the age of 25 (and up to 65 years) through regular sampling (smear). But beware, the risk increases from age 40 and remains important even after sixty. We remain vigilant all his life, following the advice of Dr. Élisabeth Paganelli, Secretary General of the National Union of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of France.

HPV: great responsible

It is the papillomavirus (HPV) that would be the main culprit. Sexually transmitted (whatever the context, heterosexual or homosexual), it can sometimes remain lurking in the mucous membranes very long, mainly in women, but also in men (throat, rectum). It is considered that 80% of women are exposed to this virus during their lifetime … Many fortunately manage to eliminate it naturally. But sometimes, small lesions can appear in the cervix. This slow evolution, between infection and the development of cancer, suggests that other factors also intervene, such as early sexuality and the multiplication of partners, smoking, a parallel infection by the AIDS virus (HIV) or herpes and, no doubt, heredity. Hence the importance of mentioning his family history, as well as his lifestyle and sexuality with his doctor or gynecologist, in order to better adapt surveillance.

Good screening

Medical monitoring and regular checkups are the only bulwarks against the development of this cancer. Every three years, it is therefore important to perform a cervico-uterine Pap smear. It involves taking cells from the cervix to detect the presence of precancerous or cancerous abnormalities. This is the only means of surveillance because these lesions do not cause perceptible symptoms. Only cancer that is already in place, often at an invasive stage, can cause bleeding or pain at the time of intercourse. Better to find it before.

Solutions exist

When the results of a smear prove to be unfavorable, the doctor will evaluate the necessity to realize a conisation. This is a surgical procedure consisting of removing the injured part of the cervix. It takes place in the hospital, most often outpatient, under local or general anesthesia. The technique used depends very much on the institution where the operation is performed, but today the electric instruments are used more than the scalpel. The intervention stops progression to cancer and allows a complete analysis of the lesion. For more advanced stages, it may be necessary to perform a hysterectomy (remove the uterus).

Two solutions to limit HPV infection

The vaccine: it allows to partially limit the contamination by certain forms of the virus. Its coverage has improved, but its formulation could be rethought without aluminum-based adjuvant. It is recommended (and reimbursed) for girls aged 11 to 13 with two injections, and up to 19 years with three injections. As much as possible as soon as possible! If he is no longer reimbursed for older women, he can still be interesting, depending on the evolution of his sex life.

The condom: we could say that it did not protect completely … Maybe, but it still limits the contamination by HPV and many other pathogens. To privilege, therefore!

Read also: 5 things to know about vaccination in France


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