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Got questions? We have answers.

If you have any questions regarding Cervical Cancer or Our Program, maybe you’ll find the answer below?

Got questions? We have answers.

If you have any questions regarding Cervical Cancer or Our Program, maybe you’ll find the answer below?

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control.

When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix, is the part of the uterus or womb that opens into the vagina. It is the part of the uterus that dilates and opens fully to allow a baby to pass into the birth canal.


Cervical cancer can take several years to develop.


It is the most common cancer among Botswana women aged between 15 and 44 years and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Botswana

Causes of Cervical Cancer

The main cause of cervical cancer is a virus called Human Papilloma Virus(HPV)

  • HPV is sexually transmitted
  • HPV detected today could have been acquired years ago
  • There are many different types of HPV
    • Low risk types which can cause genital warts
    • High risk types which can cause pre-cancer lesions and cervical cancer

Most of the time HPV goes away without any treatment, but in some women it stays in the body and can cause cervical cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

  • Abnormal Bleeding
    • Between periods
    • With intercourse
    • After menopause
  • Unusual Vaginal Discharge
  • Other Symptoms
    • Leg pain
    • Pelvic pain
    • Bleeding from the rectum or bladder
  • Some women have no symptoms

Is HPV different from other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like herpes and HIV?

HPV is often confused with other sexually transmitted infections and diseases, such as herpes or HIV. However, although it can co-exist with these and other sexually transmitted diseases, HPV is different.

About 30 types of HPV are spread only through direct genital contact. These “genital” types of HPV are either: 1) “high-risk” – which means they can cause certain kinds of cancer (most commonly, cervical cancer) if the infection persists, or 2) “low-risk” – which means they are not associated with cancer, but can cause genital warts

How common is "genital HPV"?

80 per cent of women – and 50 per cent of men and women combined – will get a type of genital HPV at some point in their lives. However, most of those infections go away or are suppressed by the body within one to two years, without causing any problems that require treatment.

How is cervical cancer treated?

If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, your physician(s) will discuss the best treatments with you

It is not possible to abstain from intercourse after cryotherapy/LEEP treatment- what should I do?

Abstain for as long as possible as it will help prevent infection

Use a male or female condom during every act of intercourse

Condoms keep the cervix clean and protect it from infection

Do men get HPV too?

Men get HPV just like women do. As with women, men usually have no symptoms, unless the HPV virus begins to cause abnormal changes in skin cells. However, although HPV infection has been linked to cancer of the penis and anus, these cancers are very rare in men.

How do you know if you have HPV? Does HPV cause any symptoms?

Most commonly, genital types of HPV do not cause any symptoms at all. Usually, the infection goes away or is suppressed by the body before any problems develop. However, sometimes the infection persists, causing abnormal cells to form. In the case of high-risk (potentially cancer-causing) types of HPV, the only way to know you have the virus before cervical cancer develops is to be screened using both a Pap and (if you are 30 or over) the HPV test. By catching persistent infections while they are still relatively early in their development, abnormal cells can be detected and removed before they become cancerous. That is why periodic testing for HPV is so important.

If you find out you have HPV, is there reason to feel guilty, or to blame your partner?

Finding out that you have the HPV virus – or cervical disease caused by HPV – often causes women to feel a range of emotions: confused, scared, uncertain, ashamed (due to the fact that it’s sexually transmitted) and even angry (perhaps at your spouse or partner). All of these emotions are natural, but they can be helped or even eliminated altogether with information from reliable sources and the support of other women or persons.

Should you tell your sexual partner(s) if you have HPV?

If you are tested for HPV and are told by your physician, nurse or other healthcare provider that you have the virus, it is your own, personal decision whether to tell your partner. It is important to remember that most adults will get one or more types of HPV at some point in their lives. Chances are, your partner was already exposed to HPV by the time your infection was detected. Likewise, it is impossible to know for certain from whom you got the HPV virus in the first place. You could have been exposed in another relationship months or years earlier, and the infection may have been dormant (“hidden”) in the meantime

Does HPV interfere with a woman's ability to get pregnant?

Having HPV does not interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant.

Can a mother with HPV pass the virus to her child?

It’s possible for the HPV virus to be passed from mother to child during birth, but it is “rare.” In these extremely infrequent cases, the HPV infection is found in the infant’s respiratory tract, which can lead to wart-like growths – most commonly, on the larynx. Early diagnosis and care are vital.

How long does it take for cervical cancer to develop?

Once cervical cells begin to change, it typically takes 10-15 years before invasive cervical cancer develops

What if my partner does not want me to be tested or receive cryotherapy/LEEP treatment?

Explain why the visit is important to your health

Ask him to go to the health clinic with you so that a health worker can explain the process and its importance

If I receive treatment with cryotherapy or LEEP, can I still have children?

Treatment with cryotherapy or LEEP does not affect your ability to bear children

Treatment ensures a healthy cervix


Even if you feel healthy, you should get screened because signs and symptoms before the development of cancer are not noticeable.
  • HPV vaccine: In Botswana the HPV vaccine is given to young girls between the ages of 9 and 13.
  • Use condoms: Condoms help prevent pregnancy, STIs and HIV
  • Limit number of sexual partners
  • Reduce or quit smoking:
  • Screening: Every 5 years for HIV negative women and every 3 years for HIV positive women.


Make sure you're living on the safe side

The health clinician will insert a speculum to see your cervix.  Then they will apply a cotton ball soaked in vinegar to your cervix and leave it there for 3 minutes.  They will then remove the cotton and observe your cervix for abnormalities.  They may also apply Lugol’s iodine solution for additional inspection.

This is not a test for HIV/HPV/other STIs. It is possible that the clinician will notice symptoms of a vaginal or cervical infection and then recommend treatment. Types of treatment recommended:

  • Antibiotics: Used to treat bacterial infections
  • Antifungal: Used to treat fungal infections
  • Cryotherapy: Use to treat mild lesions
  • LEEP: Used to treat moderate to severe lesions. Requires referral to a Medical Doctor

This is not a “cancer test” – test results might suggest a serious problem and further examination might be recommended to determine what is wrong. This tests screen only the cervix.  They do not detect potential abnormalities in other parts of the genital tract such as the uterus or ovaries.

The clinician will collect cells from your cervix and send them to a laboratory to be seen under a microscope to detect abnormal cells. When the results return and they are abnormal. You will be referred to a Medical doctor who will perform colposcopy and LEEP.


Cryotherapy destroys abnormal tissue on the cervix camera.gif by freezing it. Cryotherapy destroys some normal tissue along with the abnormal tissue. During cryotherapy, liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), which is very cold, circulates through a probe placed next to the abnormal tissue. This freezes the tissue for 2 to 3 minutes. It may be allowed to thaw and then be refrozen for another 2 to 3 minutes. A single freeze treatment for 5 minutes may also be used.

Cryotherapy causes some discomfort. Most women feel a sensation of cold and a little cramping. And sometimes a sense of warmth spreads to the upper body and face

The loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out abnormal tissue. LEEP can:

  • Cut away abnormal cervical tissue that can be seen during colposcopy
  • Remove abnormal tissue high in the cervical canal that cannot be seen during colposcopy. In this situation, LEEP may be done instead of a cone biopsy.


What to do if you or someone you know has Cervical Cancer

The treatment for most stages of cervical cancer includes:

  • Surgery, such as a hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy.

Depending on how much the cancer has grown, you may have one or more treatments. And you may have a combination of treatments.