Cervical cancer can be avoided

Roisin Maguire

Rumours on possible side effects following the HPV vaccine led to some girls opting out of the injection. With so much talk on cervical cancer, it’s important to gather the facts on the preventative measure. 

Vicky Phelan came into the Irish spotlight during the cervical cancer scandal, after discovering she and hundreds of other women were not told they had been given incorrect smear test results.

Phelan used this opportunity to expose the the scandal and has since campaigned for the importance of vaccination and regular screening despite being given a terminal diagnosis.

When she exposed Cervical Check she has urged women of all ages to get checked regularly but also emphasised the importance of the HPV vaccine.

According to hse.ie, the HPV vaccine “works best when given to 12 to 13 years olds” and that this vaccine prevents 7 out of 10 cervical cancers. This vaccine is given in schools across Ireland however it is not mandatory and must be given permission from a parent or guardian.

This website also tells us not to “be swayed by the rumours” about the vaccine as many stories emerged in 2015 when the HPV first appeared in schools of young women who had debilitating side effects after receiving the vaccine. This is why many parents have not agreed to having their daughter vaccinated.

Hse.ie said that some side effects of the vaccine are pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given, headache, dizziness, nausea,  a mild fever and that “occasionally girls faint after getting an injection”.

The Independent reported symptoms and side effects that many girls suffered after receiving the HPV vaccine which created significant debate among medical professionals, journalists and members of the public. Some commentators felt the piece had been insufficiently specific about the fact that research has established no causal link between the symptoms experienced.

Emily Ryalls told the Independent that she had to be brought to A&E after experiencing severe chest pains, difficulty breathing and the inability to move one side of her body. However, medical professionals have said there is possibly no link between these symptoms and the vaccine, especially because the symptoms were very rare compared to the number of girls who had received the vaccine with no side effects.

The hse.ie website said that the symptoms of cervical cancer are sometimes not obvious at all and may not cause any symptoms even when it has progressed to an advanced stage which emphasises the importance of getting checked for pre-cancerous cells. However, some symptoms include bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse, discomfort during sex and vaginal discharge.

Recently, Phelan made headlines with the success of her treatment which has stopped the spread of her cancer and she is now advocating for this drug to available for every women in Ireland who is suffering from cervical cancer.

Speaking on Claire Byrne about the drug, Pembrolizumab, she said that she is “proof that this drug works”. She also mentioned that the small side effects of this drug are “peanuts compared to what you have to put up with chemotherapy.”

Roisin Maguire

Image Credit: PHE Screening