Ladies, here’s a question: when was the last time you gave a good thought about what is happening “down there”. For many women, the answer is rarely or probably never. This is understandable, as we can become embarrassed or uncomfortable when thinking about “those parts down there”.
Yet, there are many medical problems associated with our genitalia that could lead to devastating consequences if we remain oblivious to the early signs, or, in some cases, deliberately ignore them. There are also some amongst us who refuse to see the doctor on such private matters because it is embarrassing.
Do you experience vaginal bleeding outside your menstrual cycle? Perhaps there is bleeding when you put on a diaphragm or when you have sex. Vaginal discharge tinged with blood generally could mean two things: it is often nothing too serious, but it could also possibly be an early sign of cervical cancer.
Worse, you could have cervical cancer even if you do not experience the above symptoms. Cervical cancer is one of the highest causes of death in women worldwide. Many only discover that they have this deadly condition when the cancer is at an advanced stage and by then the outcome is poor.
It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it, that something deadly could be developing inside you without your knowledge?
Ladies, it’s time to KISS
KISS – or Know the Important Signs and Symptoms – is a good principle to live by. Always check for signs that something is amiss with your genitalia, and consult a doctor as soon as possible if you have any concerns. Bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharges, and unusual pain during sexual intercourse – these are just some warning signs that something may not be right down there.
A shot of protection
But don’t just watch for signs. You can immediately protect yourself against cervical cancer. Protection comes in the form of vaccines that will prevent you from catching the types of human papillomavirus or HPV which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers in women1. It is also responsible for causing genital warts as well as cancers of the vagina, vulva and anus2.
The vaccines are administered in three shots over a period of 6 months3, and are available in most private clinics and hospitals. The Ministry of Health provides it to all school girls at 13 years old.
Just think – you could be spared a whole world of pain and misery just by getting your shots!
It’s time to be in control of your health
Many of us take control of almost every area of our lives – our careers, our families, our finances – only to lose everything because we often overlook this aspect of our health which is linked very closely to our femininity. Therefore, it’s time to change our attitude. Let’s take an active interest on what is happening down there, and also, let’s lose any inhibition that prevents us from taking active steps to protect us from deadly conditions such as cervical cancer.
So, when was the last time you gave a good thought about, much less checked, what is happening in your genitalia? Now is a great time to start.
MORE ON HPV
What is it?
- No, it doesn’t stand for Horrible Painful Virus. HPV actually stands for human papillomavirus.
- There are over 100 types of HPV5, about 40 types affect the genital area, which are transmitted through sexual contact6. They can spread even through sexual contact that doesn’t involve penetration7.
- HPV types 6 and 11 can cause genital warts in both men and women8.
- HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancer cases in women9.
- HPV can also cause cancers of the anus, vulva and vagina2.
Will you catch it?
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, 1 in 2 sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at least once in their lives10.
- Since many HPV carriers show no symptoms, they unknowingly spread the virus to their partners.
- It only takes one sexual encounter to contract HPV, so HPV infection is not a “bad woman’s disease”. There are many women who wait until marriage and have only one sex partner all their lives, only to catch HPV from their partner.
This article is courtesy of Immunise4LifeTM, a community programme to promote awareness on the importance of vaccination against infectious diseases, and supported by Merck Sharp Dohme (M) Sdn Bhd. For more information, visit www.immunise4life.my.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: The Pink Book. 12th ed. CDC; 2012. p. 139-150. Available online from [http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/hpv.html]
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): ‘Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet’. CDC; 2013. Available online from [http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm]