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Sep 22, 2021

Did you know that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in South Africa? Mainly caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV), it accounts for more than 270 000 deaths worldwide annually.

HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. The virus enters your body, usually through a cut, abrasion, or small tear in your skin and it is transferred primarily by skin-to-skin contact, usually through sexual intercourse.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “HPV is found in over 80% of cervical cancer cases and is the leading cause of the disease. There are more than 150 subtypes of HPV, the low-risk subtypes can cause genital warts while the high-risk subtypes are associated with cervical cancer.”

Early-stage symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • Irregular blood spotting or light bleeding between periods in women of reproductive age.
  • Postmenopausal spotting or bleeding.
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
  • Increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling.

Advanced stage symptoms include:

  • Persistent back, leg and/or pelvic pain.
  • Weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite.
  • Foul-smell discharge and vaginal discomfort.
  • Swelling of a leg or both lower extremities.

It is not all doom and gloom!

Cervical cancer is both preventable and treatable if it is diagnosed early. A pap smear combined with a test for HPV is an effective way of detecting abnormalities in the cervix. The HPV vaccination is also a very good preventative measure to protect women against the virus. The vaccination is available for young adolescents from as early as age 9 and up to 26, even if you have had HPV before.

Bestmed offers HPV vaccines across all benefit options as a preventative care benefit, paid from Scheme risk, for females between 9 and 26 years old. We also offer pap smears to Bestmed beneficiaries 18 years and above, once every 24 months on all our benefit options.

In the event that you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, Bestmed provides oncology benefits to all its members, applying evidence-based medicine principles and considering affordability across the different benefit options. All types of cancer are covered under the Bestmed Oncology care programme and Bestmed has clinically qualified staff, including qualified nurses, pharmacists, and medical doctors, who are available to review your applications.


CANSA. Available on: https://cansa.org.za/womens-health/

Mayo clinic. Available on: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20351596

World Health Organization. Available on: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/health-topics/cervical-cancer

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