The term “awareness” has become a popular expression for the past decade. It is now so extensive that its meaning can span from being physically to socially aware. Societal consciousness is kept in a lot of ways because of the vast number of researches in different fields and constant media exposure. People have learned millions of facts about the human body unknown to our ancient ancestors. Yet Dr. Bob Moorehead (1995) has once put that we have “more medicine, but less wellness”. For instance, cancer is known to be a potent killer of human beings yet until now we have no cure for it.
In this sense, let’s take cervical cancer differently. This type of cancer occurring in women is the only one known to be caused by a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV) (“Genital HPV Infection,” 2004). Viruses can be destroyed by antiviral agents such as chemicals, ionizing radiation and vaccines (Tortora, 1995). This is the reason why there are a large number of groups around the world promoting awareness about this disease believing that it could be the easiest cancer to fight.
The World Health Organization (2007) has categorized human cervical cancer as one of the leading types of cancer in women affecting over 510,000 cases annually. It is often asymptomatic which means that the person infected may not immediately know that she is infected. Tests should be done to detect the presence of this disease. Agent of the Disease A group of DNA viruses from the family Papovaviridae cause cervical cancer. This family also includes viruses that cause warts. Human Papillomavirus is the causative agent of cervical cancer.
Certain strains are responsible for the simple warts but a few “high-risk types” of strains lead to cervical cancer (Parkin, 2006). Although viruses can lead to this disease, the American Cancer Society also lists smoking, secondary infection and genetic predisposition as risky factors (“Cervical,” 2007). HPV strains 16 and 18 are especially risky to women as it causes a certain change in the cervical cells detected through a Pap test. Thus, a woman can be diagnosed of cervical cancer if there is an HPV infection but not all women with HPV can lead to cervical cancer.
Vulnerability to the Disease In 2005, lung cancer is the leading cause of death of American citizens and cervical cancer statistics are low (WHO, 2007). Pregnant women can also be affected by this virus but cases of vertical transmission to the offspring are rare. Basically, men and women are prone to infection and transmission of the virus. Women who get infected by HPV are usually sexually active or may have been exposed to the virus previously. They may have multiple sex partners or a single infected partner (“Genital HPV Infection,” 2004).
Again, the HPV strain that causes warts is different from the one causing cervical cancer which means that having warts is not directly linked to having cervical cancer. Environmental Factors As far as infection is concerned, sexual contact is enough to elicit a possibility especially if the partner is infected by the virus. WHO considers poor diet, primary HIV infection, taking oral contraceptives and multiple pregnancies as environmental risks too. Dietary factors such as having foods that are carcinogenic and unhealthy eating habits can lead not only to cervical cancer but to other diseases too.
HIV infection, which impairs the human’s immune system against diseases, may bring about cervical cancer making HPV an opportunistic pathogen. There is no clear basis of the link of oral contraceptives and having multiple pregnancies to cancer but hormonal drugs may induce cellular changes in lining of the cervix. There have been recent reports that the use of condoms reduces the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer in women (“Condoms help…. ,” 2006). Further studies are conducted about this claim and is still a topic of debate in the scientific community.
Modes for Disease Transmission Since cervical cancer is primarily caused by a virus, transmission of the disease is through direct contact, in this case, genital contact. An infected genitalia may have sores or ruptures that may come into contact with an uninfected genitalia. Oral sex can also transmit the virus. HPV infection from mothers to newborns is rare or may lead to respiratory papillomatosis. A recent study has reported that a person that may have been infected earlier by a milder strain of the HPV may lead to cervical cancer.
Persistent strains may remain dormant in the body and in later years alter its physiology and cause cervical cancer (Cason, Rice & Best, 1998). Thus, the early claim that only “high-risk types” of strains can cause cervical cancer needs to be re-assessed. Controlling the Spread of the Disease With the increased awareness of the benefits of early detection and prevention of cervical cancer, there are a lot of ways to avoid contracting and preventing the spread of the disease. Cellular analysis, vaccination, use of condoms and the use of microbicides are few suggestions (“Human Papillomavirus,” 2007).
Cytological analysis of the lining of the cervix, commonly called a Pap smear test is effective in distinguishing cellular growth abnormalities. If the Pap smear test results are abnormal, an HPV test that detects the presence of the DNA of the virus can be subsequently done. There are also latest additions of tetravalent vaccines developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies that are now commercially available for women only. The vaccines are still not fool-proof as there are reports of minor side-effects like having fever and redness of the skin (“HPV,” 2006).
Avoiding sexual contact is the most effortless and cheapest way of prevention. Another simple and convenient technique of preventing spread is through the use of condoms. Although condoms are believed to be preventive of sexually transmitted diseases, the effectivity of this practice is still under deliberation. Still there is no harm in using condoms because prevention is always better than cure. Lastly, latest idea in disease control is the production of topical microbicides that can kill the virus before sexual contact. Social and Cultural Influences
It is a stigma in this society being labeled as someone having a sexually transmitted disease. Having the disease is already tough, plus the collective prejudice one is subjected to. In the context of social relevance, people have become liberal about having sexual contact where there is no issue about unmarried couples having sex. Teens under legal age also commit this act. It is therefore incontestable that the chances of contracting the disease are really high in this modern age. Awareness of the cause, prevention, detection and treatment of cervical cancer is indubitably crucial.
Social beliefs can sometimes prevent the treatment of the disease. The use of condoms is an issue to the Catholic persuasion. Contraceptives are not an option for Catholics, as instructed by the Vatican. Another issue about the treatment of cervical cancer is the use of vaccines that are not yet suitable for use of everyone and may cause side-effects. From the past decades, there have been significant steps in promoting awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Princess Diana of Wales guilelessly reduced the stigma put by the society to HIV infected patients all over the world.
Other famous figures followed her lead to not only erase prejudice but also to let everyone know what these diseases are and find ways to cure them. In the modern world, certain groups educate people worldwide and create ways to reach out to people such as the Digene Corporation. Conclusion Cervical cancer in women is primarily caused by an infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are certain strains that are “high-risk” for cervical cancer. It is believed that the virus causes an alteration in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cancer.
Transmission of the disease is through direct sexual contact or through oral sex where the uninfected skin comes into contact with an infected sore or lesion. Since the cancer is caused by a virus, it is believed to be treated easily and preventable in some ways. Vaccination, the use of condom and topical microbicides, and undergoing the Pap test are some suggested ways to avoid and control the spread of the disease. Due to its curable nature, steps are now done to promote awareness about the disease so that people can avoid contracting and find ways to cure it. References
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Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from http://www. cdc. gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV. htm “HPV (Human Papillomavirus)”. 2006. U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from http://www. fda. gov/WOMENS/getthefacts/hpv. html “Human Papillomavirus” . 2007. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (2007).. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Human_papillomavirus “Human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer”. 2007. World Health Organization. Retrieved July 5, 2007, from http://www. who. int/vaccine_research/diseases/hpv/en/
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