22 May 2011


A woman’s cervix is located at the lower part of the womb. Changes can occur in these cells and in many cases, the cells return to normal on its own. However, in some cases, the cells change in an abnormal way and develop into cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be prevented if these abnormal changes are detected and treated in its early stages. In Singapore, about 200 women are diagnosed with the disease each year, and 80 die of it, most likely because it is discovered late.

Cervical cancer can be detected by a Pap smear. It is a screening test to check for changes in the cells of your cervix whereby cells are collected from your cervix. The process takes only a few minutes. The cells are then smeared onto a glass slide and sent to a laboratory for further processing and examination under a microscope.

Pap smears are recommended for sexually-active females from age 18 onwards. The frequency of screening is from 1-3 years, depending on risks. Most family clinics should be able to provide this service.

Some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can infect the cervix, causing the cells to change. In about 90% of the infection cases, the virus clears by itself and the cells return to normal. In some cases, the infection can persist and cause the cells to grow in an abnormal way, developing into cervical cancer. Specifically, HPV types 16 and 18 causes about 70% of the cervical cancer cases worldwide.

WHAT IS THE HPV VACCINE? The HPV vaccines are targeted for use in females aged 9 to 26 years old. They are most effective in protecting against infection by the selected HPV types if given before first sexual exposure. Vaccination does not substitute for cervical cancer screening by regular Pap smears. However, new evidence shows that the vaccinations are effective in women up to 45 years of age.

It is important to know that the vaccine is not designed to protect against other HPV types (i.e. non-type 16 or 18) that cause about 1 in 3 cases of cervical cancer. It is also important to remember that the vaccination works by preventing infection by the specific HPV types – it does not treat existing HPV infections.

The vaccination schedule is 3 doses at 0, 1-2 month and 6 month interval. The Expert Committee for Immunisation in Singapore has recommended that HPV vaccinations be included in the national childhood immunisation programme.

In summary, HPV vaccinations are strongly recommended for girls and ladies from the age of 10 onwards, in particular teenagers and young adults. It should be considered for at-risk females up to 45 years of age as well.

Do drop by our clinics for any enquiries or a detailed consultation to find out more.

References :
http://www.hpb.gov.sg/healthscreening/article.aspx?id=8766 http://www.hpb.gov.sg/hpb2/qnahpb_faqmain.asp?strItemChoice=200511803814&strSubItemChoice=20051180393&action=SHOWTOPICS&m_strTopicSysID=2008430144324#20051180393 http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/News/Pages/Cervical-cancer-jabs-covered-by-Medisave.aspx