Cervical cancer is not a virus that you get from sharing a common toilet seat, and you cannot prevent it through the use of condoms during sex.
But these are myths that still plague a lot of women in Singapore, despite the extensive public education on the burden of this disease.
And at least 70 per cent of the 3,000 women respondents who participated in a survey sponsored by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline still held these mistaken beliefs about cervical cancer.
It showed that not only did the women aged between 18 and 54 years old not know the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) was the cause of cervical cancer, but they also thought that the HPV was a virus which causes ulcers, sores and blisters, not cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide among women over the age of 15. In Singapore, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths among women. More than one woman dies of the cancer every week.
Senior Consultant for Gynaecological Oncology at KK Women?s and Children?s Hospital Associate Professor Tay Eng Hseon also warned that even women who had ceased sexual activity may still be susceptible to infection.
The HPV is a virus that causes cervical cells to mutate in a series of changes and turn into cancerous cells. It is easily transmitted through genital skin contact, such as sexual intercourse or oral sex. The cancer begins in the cervix - the part of the uterus or womb that opens to the vagina - and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Another little-known fact is that about 50-80 per cent of women will acquire HPV infection in their lifetime.
Fortunately, the virus clears up by itself in most women. But the virus survives for years in a small number of women and convert cells on the cervix surface into cancer cells.
The good news is that the cancer is preventable through vaccination and early detection. Effective measures that help guard against cervical cancer include pap smears - where cells from the surface of the cervix are tested for abnormalities under a microscope - and vaccinations.
Professor Tay advises women to go for screening three years after their first sexual activity, and to go for regular pap smear tests after that.
He said: "Condoms do not offer full protection. Vaccination alongside screening will reduce the risk of cervical cancer further than screening alone."