1st for Women urges women to screen for cervical cancer

Robyn Farrell, executive head of 1st for Women Insurance, speaks about cervical cancer.


Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is the underlying cause of most cases of cervical cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 cause about 70 percent of all cervical cancers. About 21 percent of women in the general South African population are estimated to harbour a cervical HPV infection at any given time.

Women are urged to pay attention to their health to prevent the onset of cervical cancer. Robyn Farrell, executive head of the insurance company said the incidence of cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer in South Africa, but it is the most common cancer affecting women in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Farrell explained, “It’s important to note that this disease is curable if detected in the early stages with a screening called a pap smear. Or it can be completely prevented by vaccinating against most common cancer-causing strains of HPV.”

Having a pap smear, which tests the cervical cells and is performed by a gynaecologist at least once a year, is essential in detecting any abnormal cells that could become cancerous.

Women can be infected with HPV at any time in their lives while they are sexually active, but most infections clear up on their own, however, the infection remains dormant in the body. When an infection persists, the risk of developing cervical cancer rises.

“Unfortunately, many South African women don’t undergo regular screening for cervical cancer due to a lack of awareness or because they can’t, or don’t know how to access the necessary healthcare services,” said Farrell.

In order to not become a statistic, all sexually active women need to become more aware of this cancer, take responsibility for their health and empower themselves by having preventative screenings and having the vaccine, she said..


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