Rajendrie Govender, a cytology Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), highlighted the significance of getting regular pap smear tests done as an important step toward preventing cervical cancer. She was speaking at a Biomedical Sciences public lecture which raised awareness of cervical cancer.
The public lecture, titled Preventing cervical cancer, was hosted virtually on Wednesday, 14 September, as part of MUT’s efforts to commemorate Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (September).
“There is absolutely no reason why women should be dying from a disease that has very high prevention rate,” said Govender. “Prevention is always better than cure.”
She said it was important for women to also know some of the possible symptoms of cervical cancer so that they can get themselves tested. These symptoms include irregular bleeding, clitoral pain and increased vaginal discharge.
“Look out for irregular bleeding, which means non-cyclic or out of the regular cycle. It does not imply that every time you have an irregular cycle that you should be thinking of HPV (Human papillomavirus), but this in combination with other symptoms can give you some information of what your body is trying to say,” she explained.
She added that postmenopausal bleeding was a “big warning sign and such women must avail themselves for further investigation immediately”.
According to Govender, prevention strategies involved early detection of HPV and precancerous changes through tests. Although there are several test options for detecting HPV, Govender pointed out that pap smear remained widely accessible and quick. Vaccination was also available for children.
“Vaccination against high-risk subtypes is available for 10-year-old females in South Africa. It is an optional thing, and they will send out permission slips to parents asking whether you would allow your child to be vaccinated or not, so it’s optional. But considering the high prevalence of HPV out there and as a professional in the field, I think it is something that should be seriously considered,” Govender explained.
She encouraged women to use the free pap smear services provided at community clinics and mobile clinics.
The MUT Health Clinic is also running a cervical cancer screening as part of cervical cancer awareness.