I am Dr. Astha Dayal, Gynaecologist. Today we are going to talk about cervical cancer vaccine. This is the topic I picked because there are a lot of myths around it and not many people in India know about it. Cervical cancer is the cancer of the mouth of the uterus. It is the 2nd most common cancer in women, India after breast cancer. If you want to know the statistics, every 8 minutes a woman in India is diagnosed with cervical cancer. Now, this is only cancer in the world which has a vaccine because this cancer is caused by a virus. And the virus is human papillomavirus or HPV and it is sexually transmitted. So, this is the most effective vaccine if a woman takes before her first intercourse. And after the introduction of the vaccine, it is being used universally and that is the reason the cancer rate has really got down. Because in India it is a little expensive. People who can afford must take the vaccine. A cervical cancer vaccine is of 2 types. One prevents cancer and another prevents HPV. Most of the time your body has the capacity to fight the virus.
So, if we check and see that a person has HPV that does not mean the person has cancer because if we see after 6 months, your body will remove the virus itself. So, if anyone has HPV in the body, we have to check after 6 months to check if the patient has persistent HPV. Now, the good age for the vaccine is 11-15 years. If we get it before 15 years, you need 2 doses at the difference of 6 months. And if you take after 15 years of age, you need 3 doses over a period of 6 months. It is 100% protective if a woman is not sexually active and it is 70-80% effective if you are sexually active. Now, what are the side-effects? Everybody is scared of this vaccine because of some initial report of people having some reaction. But nothing serious has been reported. There will be a little pain, burning, redness or fever at the injection side which happens after every vaccine. The only precaution you need to take over a period of 6 months that you do not have to get pregnant.
We give this vaccine up to the age of 35-40. As young you are and taking the vaccine, the results would be more effective. In abroad, there is a vaccine which covers 9 types of the virus but the cancer protective types are the same. The advantage of this cancer is that it is slow growing cancer. If the initial stage is an infection than after 15-20 years, it will become cancer. If you see changes in yourself, you can get treatment to cure at that particular time. Because we have 10-15 years of the window. So, if a person has missed the vaccine, then there is another way with which you can prevent cervical cancer which is paps smear. And nowadays we do paps smear along with HPV testing. If a woman is less than 30 years and she is sexually active, she should get a paps smear done every 3 years. And if she is more than 30 years, she should get the paps smear done along with HPV test every 5 years.
These are the tests for the screening of cervical cancer. These are not an invasive test like we do gynaec or an internal examination, just at that point of time we take a small brush from the mouth of the uterus. It is not painful but uncomfortable and it is a 2-second thing and that is to be done at every 3-5 years. It will protect you from cancer. So, either a woman should get the vaccine at an appropriate age or the tests need to be done time because this is a highly preventable cancer.