CERVICAL cancer is the number one cancer affecting women in our country. The good news is that as medicine advances we have better ways to find and treat this horrible disease. Most importantly we can now even prevent cervical cancer in young women. The underlying cause is an infection by the HPV virus, that is transmitted by genital fluids and skin-to-skin contact. So everybody gets exposed -but most people can fight the virus and don’t get cancer. Using condoms and avoiding high risk or multiple sexual partners reduces the risk. Taking the vaccine between the ages of 10 to 25 years will help more of the younger generation prevent it. It takes many decades for HPV to damage the opening of the uterus and cause abnormal cells that can slowly turn into cancer. This gives us lots of time to find these abnormal cells by doing a pap smear. When we find them, abnormal cells can be removed with a small day-case procedure (colposcopy) in a hospital or clinic. This screening and treatment prevents cervical cancer before it starts, so ALL woman should do a pap smear every two to three years. Warning signs of cervical cancer are abnormal periods, bleeding after sex, pelvic pain, persistent vaginal discharge, or new bleeding after menopause. If you have these signs get a check up immediately at your clinic/GP/Gynae. Your doctor will always be able to do a pap smear and feel the cervix, even if you are still bleeding, so as not to miss an early cancer. Fortunately surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to treat existing cancer is also constantly improving with fewer side effects and better results. Knowledge is power. We can beat cervical cancer.