Can a family planning coil cause cancer?

Monday July 20 2020


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

Recently, a close relative allegedly died of cancer of the womb after having a family planning coil inserted. Is this possible? –David
Dear David,
Cancer results from an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, which may invade and destroy other tissues. The cells result from changes (mutations) that affect DNA of normal cells. These changes may happen by bad chance, due to genetics, environmental exposure and some germs, especially viruses, including Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Certain types of HPV can cause changes to cells of the cervix leading to cancer of the cervix. It is not true that the coil (IUCD) could have caused the cancer that led to your relative’s death.
It is necessary that women of childbearing age do regular PAP smears to help detect and treat cancer of the cervix early enough for better treatment outcomes. Also, mothers who have not regularly had PAP smear may have one inserted when they already have cancer of the cervix.
A number of women fear pregnancy more than sexually transmitted infections. They therefore engage in sexual intercourse with several partners after having the coil inserted without protection. This, however, exposes them to STDs, including HPV, which is responsible for cancer of the cervix.
Immunisation against HPV can be done to prevent cancer of the cervix but this should preferably be done early enough before starting to engage in sexual intercourse (which risks HPV infection). This is why in Uganda, girls around 13 years of age are immunised.

What causes an odour during one’s period?
My sister says I have a body odour during my period. I have seen a doctor but even after treatment, she still complains. What is the cause and how can I get rid of it? –Mica
Dear Mica,
Women take period blood to be dirty and any smell they suffer during their period is wrongly taken to be due to dirty blood. That said, period blood may carry some odour, which may vary every month or depending on related vaginal conditions that on their own may cause vaginal odour.

These include STDS, cancer of the cervix and a fishy smell of bacterial vaginosis that may happen when the vaginal bacteria balance is upset as may happen around period time.
Girls just like boys at puberty may have a recognisable smell, which should not cause any embarrassment although it still requires dealing with.

The odour is due to adolescents starting to produce oily sweat in the armpits and pubis, and it is this sweat when broken down by bacteria on the skin that will cause an odour. Also, adults who produce unusually high amounts of oil and sweat may also get a body odour.

Body odour is an embarrassing condition, and when one has it, they may never notice it themselves being alerted by someone else.

The sense of smell is protective and once one kind of smell happens, a person after some time will switch it off (olfactory fatigue) so that other odours can be smelled. This could be the reason you do not detect that you have an odour.
The pubis and armpits have scent glands and oily sweat production increases during periods of stress and anxiety that menstruation may bring. Also, because of hormonal changes during the time around period (just like in menopause), a woman may get sweaty in the evenings also resulting in a body odour.


Since you were given treatment for infections, it is likely that now the cause of the odour is not infections. You need to practice good hygiene by cleaning the outside of the vagina regularly, shave the pubis and armpits well to reduce the load of skin bacteria there, use exterior deodorants, wear cotton underwear, wash and dry the underwear in the sun and iron before wearing them.