Dr Olumide Ofinran is a consultant gynaecologist, sub-specialist in gynaecological oncology and advanced laparoscopic and robotic surgeon. The specialist in colposcopy who is with the National Health Service, United Kingdom, talks about cervical cancer in this interview with ALEXANDER OKERE
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is the abnormal growth of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) that have the ability to invade tissues or spread to other parts of the body.
What are the causes and risks of cervical cancer?The main cause of cervical cancer is the presence of the human papillomavirus infection. HPV is a common viral infection, which is transmitted through sexual contact, including skin-to-skin contact. However, most women who have HPV infection do not develop cervical cancer. There are over 100 different types of HPV, and while some cause warts, others can cause different types of cancer (cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and back of the throat).
Over 80 per cent of sexually active people would have had HPV infection at some time in their life but majority will get rid of it via their body’s immune system. Persons with persistent HPV infection have an increased chance of acquiring precancerous cell abnormalities and subsequently developing cancers if left untreated.Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer. Other risk factors act together with HPV to increase the risk for cervical cancer. These include cigarette smoking, having sex from an early age, having multiple sexual partners, having children early and having a lot of children; weak immune system, low income or education and taking the contraceptive pill. Cervical cancer typically develops over 10 to 20 years. Also, there is an increased risk of cervical cancer if other women in the immediate family (mother, sister or daughter) have had cervical cancer. Research is ongoing to find out if this is because of faulty genes or other reasons.