Filipinas are now more empowered than ever, with so many leading successful lives and raising families that sometimes they neglect taking care of themselves. We've become so used to being selfless and we tend to dismiss concerns about our own bodies, but that should not be the case. When I am invited to events that promote cervical cancer awareness, I make it a point to go because it's a cause I believe in, and by sharing what I've learned, I may help save lives.
Why should we be worried about cervical cancer?
- Second leading cause of cancer deaths among Filipinas
- Seven Filipinas die of cervical cancer
- 2 in 3 Filipinas diagnosed with cervical cancer may die within five years
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop and spread in the cervix, the entrance between the vagina and the uterus. This is caused by persistent infection with the cancer causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
HPV is a very common virus. It is also estimated that up to 80 percent of women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Majority of HPV infections may come and go, some may clear spontaneously within two years, however if the immune system is weak, the HPV infections may persist and may eventually lead to the development of cervical cancer. HPV infection is easily transmitted via skin-to-skin genital contact (even without penetrative sex) and condoms may not be enough to protect you from exposure to HPV.
Every woman is at risk, regardless of race, age, lifestyle, or socio-economic status.
To commemorate Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) strengthens their advocacy via the Power Over Cervical Cancer "You Can & You Will" campaign. This aims to encourage Filipinas to realize that they have the power to protect themselves and their dreams by simply consulting with their doctors and asking about ways to prevent cervical cancer.
The GOOD news to all this is that cervical cancer can be prevented via screening (pap smear) and HPV vaccination.
You may backread about my journey to getting protected against HPV and cervical cancer.
I remember attending Andi Manzano's bridal shower last 2013, where she opened up that her mom has had cervical cancer. Her mom was there during the event to share her experience. An early symptom was irregular bleeding, wherein she thought that she was just going through her menopause. Due to early detection, she was able to get treatment at Stage 1 and is now cancer-free. Because of that, she required her family members to get HPV vaccinations, and would even be the one to follow up on their vaccine schedules, since the full-course vaccine is comprised of 3 shots given within a 6 month period. Andi is now a mom to beautiful Olivia, and when her daughter comes of age, she'll make it a point to protect her too with the HPV vaccine.
Fact: It's recommended that the HPV vaccination can already be administered as early as 9 years old.
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Getting cancer may be a distant concept for women who are well and at their prime, but they should be aware that even the healthiest can be at risk. The power to protect yourself from cervical cancer is in your hands, and NOW is the best time to consult with your physician and have yourself screened.
To know more about cervical cancer, visit Power Over Cervical Cancer on Facebook and Pangarap Mo, Protektado on Youtube. These pages contain information and short films about protecting oneself against vaccine-preventable diseases and how it's an important step to achieving one’s dreams.
Dear future me,
Today I write my promise to you, that you'll be healthy! You already love fish and dislike red meat, which is a nice start. You will have lovely skin because I'll drink more water. You must never smoke, but I doubt that you will anyway since you hate the smell of cigarette smoke. Last May 2014, you finished the full-course of HPV vaccinations, but that doesn't give you the 20-year license to live recklessly. Even if you don't feel like it, go to the doctor and get checked. She is a friend. Just take good care of your health. It should be your priority, even if you're leading a very busy career.
So protect yourself and your dreams. You have the power!
Let's keep in touch!