Last Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Cervical Cancer - A Preventable Disease, But Not Prevented!
Did you know that?
- Cervical Cancer (cancer of the mouth of the womb) is one of the commonest cancers among Indian women.
- Yearly 5 lakh cases occur worldwide - of these 1.3 lakh are from India alone!
- In our country, early symptoms are often ignored. Therefore about 75% come in advanced, incurable stages and about 78,000 women die of this disease every year in India!
- All this, in spite of the fact that cervical cancer is a preventable and curable disease!!
How can we prevent Cervical Cancer?
- Awareness of Symptoms:
- Persistent Discharge
- Abnormal bleeding (In between periods, after intercourse or after menopause)
- Such symptoms should be reported to your doctor without delay.
- However, there may be no symptoms in the very early or pre-cancer stages, hence a regular check-up and Pap’s test is mandatory for all women
- Pap’s test: can detect this disease in its “pre-cancer stage”. At this stage, the treatment is simple and highly effective. The disease will be eradicated and full-blown cervical cancer is thus prevented. However, in this very early “pre-cancer” stage, there are no symptoms. Hence, regular check-ups and Pap’s smears, even if you have no complaints at all, are the only way to detect it in this very early stage.
- Regular Pap’s test can detect the disease in the pre-cancer stage.
- Proper and prompt treatment of this pre-cancer will prevent cancer.
- Co-Test: Here along with Pap’s test, the sample is also tested for the HPV virus.
We now know that most cervical cancers are caused by infection with certain viruses (high-risk HPV). Infection with HPV occurs through sexual intercourse and most women are affected at some stage or another. Although in most cases it is cleared by our immunity, in 10-15% women it may persist. This persistent infection with high-risk HPV viruses may lead to cervical cancer after some years.
- Vaccines are now available to prevent infection from some of these high-risk HPV viruses. If taken before sexual debut, they provide 70-80% protection from cervical cancer. This vaccine is recommended for girls between ages 9 and 14 and up to 26 years.
- However, the vaccinated women must still continue with regular Pap test, as the protection offered by the vaccination is not 100%
What can I do to protect myself from this killer disease?
- Strongly consider vaccination for recommended ages
- Have regular Pap’s smear & check-up, even if you have no problem
- Report any abnormal bleeding or discharge to the doctor
- Avoid teen marriages and multiple partners. Practice safe sex and barrier contraceptives to reduce the risk of HPV infection
- Avoid smoking or second hand smoke
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!