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Cervical Cancer Singapore

What is HPV & Cervical Cancer?

The Link Between HPV and Cervical Cancer

Nearly all cervical cancer cases are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common and often silent virus that is sexually transmitted—though penetrative sex is not required for transmission. Genital contact is also a common method of transmission. Most sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. In 90% of cases, however, the immune system will get rid of HPV infections within two years. In the remaining cases, some infections caused by high-risk strains of HPV may persist and turn into cervical cancer.

What is HPV & Cervical Cancer?

Types of HPV Infection

Though almost all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to HPV, not all strains of HPV progress to cervical cancer.

There are over 100 types of HPV, and they can be classified into two broad types:

  • Low-risk types, which cause genital warts (e.g. HPV type 6 and 11)
  • High-risk types, which can progress into cancer (e.g. HPV type 16 and 18)
What Causes Cervical Cancer?

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Unfortunately, the early stages of cervical cancer do not usually present with any symptoms; and when symptoms do appear, the cancer may already be in the later stages.

These symptoms include:

  • Bleeding after intercourse
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Lower back pain and pelvic pain
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

It’s also important to note that the HPV virus often lay dormant in the body for years before symptoms finally present themselves; which only further underscores the importance of regular and timely screenings to detect and treat any abnormal cell changes in the cervix well before symptoms even show up.

Stages of Cervical Cancer

If cancerous cells have been detected, however, then we will have to determine the stage and location of the cancer, which will also help us determine the right treatment plan for you.

Stage 1

The cancer is only confined to the neck of the womb, the cervix, and is largely treatable.

Stage 2

The cancer has spread to the top of the vagina and/or into the tissues around the cervix.

Stage 3

The cancer has spread to surrounding structures, like the lower third of the vagina and/or through the pelvic wall, possibly blocking one or both ureters.

Stage 4

The cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum, or even to organs further away like the lungs. This is known as metastatic cancer.

Survival Rate

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, the 5-year survival outlook is approximately as follows:
Stage 1
80% - 90%
Stage 2
50% - 70%
Stage 3
20% - 40%
Stage 4
10% - 20%
Depending on the stage and location of the cancer, your treatment may require some or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

How You Can Protect Yourself from Cervical Cancer

Preventing cervical cancer comes in two crucial stages:

  1. HPV Vaccination
  2. Cervical Screening (Pap Smear & HPV Test)

Find out more about how you can prevent cervical cancer from rearing its ugly head.

What Causes Cervical Cancer?
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Dr Quek Swee Chong
Dr Quek is an experienced gynaecologist of over 20 years with a specialized interest in the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.

To that end, he serves on the board of the International Federation of Colposcopy & Cervical Pathology, and his extensive research and humanitarian work centre around HPV and cervical cancer as well.