HEALTH section / Words from the Doc' / Women's health: cervical cancer, preventable deaths!


On the occasion of Women's Day on March 8 and after a reminder on the knowledge of women's bodies, we continue our theme for the month of March to talk about cancer of the cervix. In France and overseas, cancer of the cervix is ​​one of the most common in women. A national screening program has existed since 2018 and a vaccination campaign against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is getting under way in order to fight against this cancer and these avoidable deaths.

Each year, nearly 3.000 women develop cervical cancer and 1.100 women die from it, while for the World Health Organization, cervical cancer could be totally eliminated thanks to two effective and complementary interventions : screening and vaccination. As a reminder, the cervix is ​​located at the bottom of the vagina and is the passage between the vagina and the uterus. During sexual intercourse and despite the condom, the cervix can be contaminated by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. This virus is generally eliminated by the woman's body within a year but can remain present and be responsible for precancerous lesions. The evolution of these lesions is slow. They can take from a few years to more than 10 years to turn into cancer. Very often, women with cervical cancer have no symptoms. A woman can therefore have this cancer without knowing it.


What is cervical cancer screening?

Cervical cancer screening aims to detect lesions and treat them before they develop into cancer. It also makes it possible to detect and treat cancers at an early stage and to improve the chances of recovery. It is based on a sample taken from the exocervix which makes it possible to detect abnormal cells or the presence of HPV. If the screening is positive, it does not mean that there is cancer. In this case, additional examinations may be prescribed. If precancerous lesions are detected by these additional examinations, they can be treated before the appearance of cancer. If cancer is detected, it will usually be detected at an earlier stage and can be treated with lighter care to preserve fertility further.


A cancer vaccine

The HPV vaccine is given in two doses spaced 6 months apart between the ages of 11 and 14 for boys and girls and is reimbursed by social security. Several studies have shown that the effectiveness of the vaccine against HPV was very strong, especially if it is carried out in early adolescence, before sexual life. According to a 2020 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of cervical cancer is 88% lower in participants who started getting the vaccine before age 17 compared to those who never did. been vaccinated. This risk reduction is only 53% when vaccination is initiated between 17 and 30 years of age. According to Santé Publique France, at the end of 2021, only 45,8% of young girls aged 15 had received a dose. Among boys of the same age, vaccination coverage reached 6%. In 2018, overseas, coverage was still too low: 11,9% in Guadeloupe, 8,2% in Martinique, 14,1% in Guyana and 8,1% in Reunion.

From the start of the 2023 school year, 5th graders will be able to get vaccinated for free, parental consent will be required and vaccination will not be compulsory.

Discuss this with your doctor. He or she will be able to answer and guide you. _FS

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