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Understanding Cervical Cancer

The topic of cervical cancer has been widely discussed in the media over the recent years, but yet it remains a relatively taboo subject that many people don’t know much about. With cervical cancer awareness week happening from January 22, we will be running a series of features alongside health experts at Danat Al Emarat Hospital and HealthPlus, to shed some light on what exactly the disease is, how it is contracted, and the signs to look out for to detect it.

Over the next few weeks, we will be running a Q&A session with a leading doctor in the field of cervical cancer, so if you have any questions that you’d like us to ask, please feel free to share them with us by emailing

What is cervical cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. With cervical cancer, the cancer begins in cells that make up the cervix.

How common is it?

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women and the third leading cause of death. In the United Arab Emirates, it is the second common cancer in women and some cases of cervical cancer are not detected until they are in the late stages, when it is difficult to treat.

What causes cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by genital infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). For most women, HPV goes away on its own without causing any problems. However, for some women, HPV infection persists and can cause cervical cancer.

What is HPV and how do you get it?

HPV is a group of more than 100 different viruses. HPV affects different parts of the body such as the skin and genital areas. Infection with HPV type 16 and 18 are responsible For 70% of cervical cancer cases. HPV is transmitted from an infected partner. 

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. However at late stages, symptoms can be:

  • Bleeding or spotting between regular menstrual periods
  • Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Abnormal discharge 
  • Pain in the pelvis or lower back

How is cervical cancer detected?

Cervical cancer is detected with a test called the Pap test. The Pap test looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. During the Pap test, the doctor takes a small sample of cells From cervix and sends them to the laboratory, where they are checked for abnormal changes. All women between 25 and 65 years of age should have a Pap test, as per the recommendations below:

Aged 25- 49: Screening every three years

Aged 50-65: Screening every five years

Women who are immune-compromised due to disease or medication must have annual screening

Is there a vaccine to prevent HPV infection?

There is a vaccine that prevents the infection with HPV. Two types of vaccines are available and both are approved to be used by Ministry of Health.



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