…That might have turned your head, yet it is a common question many young women ask me during consultations.
Perhaps you’re now slightly annoyed at the fact you think we’re suggesting that women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer are promiscuous?!
The stark reality is that it’s a common problem – mixed messages around how cervical cancer develops in the first instance and how best to protect ourselves as well as our daughters, sisters, and nieces against this disease.
Nearly all squamous cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV), however this does not mean that a woman diagnosed with cervical cancer is sexually promiscuous. It is simply a matter of fact – most women and men too – contract HPV at some stage during their life. It is a common virus, just the flu or a cold; most of us come into catch a cold or flu more than once in our lives and their immune systems clear it.
Did you know that there are about 100 types of HPV? Two of which can cause genital warts and perhaps most importantly, two that can cause changes in the cervix skin that may lead to a woman developing cervical cancer.
Not all of us can clear the HPV virus using our immune system in the same way that we often clear colds and the flu. So just like we can protect ourselves against the flu by having a jab, we can now do the same for the types of HPV we know can put us at a higher risk of cervical cancer.
That’s why the HPV vaccination is so vitally important – it protects against the four types of HPV (6, 11, 16 and 18) is available in one injection. The NHS offers a school programme for girls aged 12-13 in the UK, choosing this is ideal timing, as the immune system is receptive at this age and is hopefully prior to her commencing a healthy sex life.
During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week this week (22nd – 28th) it’s important to remember that not all cervical cancers are caused by changes to the cervix as a result of the HPV virus – approximately a quarter of cases are not – so if you notice anything abnormal i.e. unusual bleeding go and get checked by your GP. And PLEASE remember it’s still really important that you go for your FREE cervical health check-ups when we are invited aka cervical screening.
So think of having the HPV jab as part of practicing healthy, safe sex – and where possible ensure your partner wears a condom to help protect against HPV.
So this January, please #ThinkCervical
If you would like to talk to our Ask Eve specialist nurse about any concerns you may have about cervical cancer, please feel free to phone 0808 802 0019 or email email@example.com