New vaccines will ultimately help to prevent the infections that cause most cervical cancer in women — saving thousands of lives around the world in the future
On the whole, most women do not know that cervical cancer is caused by a virus but there is a definite eagerness to know more about this preventable disease within the female community.
Every 2 minutes, somewhere in the world a woman dies from cervical cancer Cervical cancer does not just affect older women, it is the second most common cancer in women under 45. You don’t have to be older to get cervical cancer. Every woman may be at risk
Cervical cancer today
Cervical cancer is a major cause of death in women around the world. In the UK there are around 2,800 new cases and 1,100 cervical cancer deaths a year. While in the US there are 10,000 new cases and 3,700 deaths per year. Around the world, every two minutes a woman is dying of cervical cancer.
Symptoms and prognosis of cervical cancer
The pre-cancerous stages and earlier stages of cervical cancer are usually symptom-less, which is why it is important for women to have regular pap smear tests, also known as cervical screening. In the absence of screening, the most common sign of invasive cervical cancer is bleeding from the vagina at times other than during menstruation.
Cervical cancer is not hereditary. The main cause is a virus called HPVHPV may be transmitted through genital skin to skin contact. Full intercourse is not needed. Up to 80% of women will be infected by an HPV infection at some point during their lives
Preventative measures: screening and vaccination
An apple a day won’t keep cervical cancer away, but regular screening can Screening is important, but it does not detect all pre-cancerous lesions or cancer Vaccination along with regular screening, is offering women the best possible protection
Human papilloma virus (HPV) — the infectious cause of cervical cancer
Unlike the vast majority of other cancers, the cause of cervical cancer has been narrowed down to a single agent; the human papilloma virus (HPV). This common, highly infectious virus, spread via sexual activity where penetrative intercourse is not necessary, will infect the majority of women at some point in their lives and 80 per cent of women will acquire a genital HPV infection by the age of 50. Over 100 different strains of HPV are known but only 15 strains are considered oncogenic or cancer-causing. Some other factors, including smoking and long-term use of oral contraceptives, may also make an HPV infection more likely to persist – and therefore increase the risk of cancerous changes in the cervical tissue. But these lifestyle factors do not cause cervical cancer. The evidence points firmly to cancer causing HPV types that are found in over 99 per cent (virtually all) of cervical cancers.
The cervical cancer vaccine: a breakthrough for both science and women around the world
With HPV identified as the root cause, scientists have set out to develop vaccines that prevent against the majority of cervical cancer cases and therefore prevent the majority of cases from infecting women in the first place. The vaccines produced so far offer protection against HPV 16 and 18, the most-common cancer-causing strains of the virus. GSK is committed to research in this area and to producing the best possible vaccine to help to prevent infection with cancer causing HPV types and therefore the onset of cervical cancer.