Cervical Cancer Awareness Month – 93 % of cases can be reduced with timely diagnosis and vaccination

Mumbai – Cervical cancer is one of the most easily avoidable malignancies, while being the most frequent gynecological cancer among Indian women. In India, approximately 45000 women died from cervical cancer in 2019 according to WHO. According to Oncologist, There is a need to raise public awareness about the need of routine screening by doing Pap smear and HPV testing along with HPV vaccination to prevent cervical cancer and reduce morbidity and mortality.

Dr. Meghal Sanghavi, Consultant – Surgical Oncology at SRV Hospitals Chembur said, ‘‘Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer prevalent in Indian women. It is more commonly seen in rural regions due to poor hygiene, a lack of awareness, and insufficient screening. Some factors that may increase your risk of developing Cervical cancer are early sexual activity, having multiple partners or a sexual partner with multiple partners. Additionally, smoking has been linked to increasing risk for cancers. People with diseases that lower immunity such as HIV/AIDS or those who have undergone a transplant may also be at risk.’’

Dr. Sanghavi added, “Unfortunately, cervical cancer may be asymptomatic in its early stages and shows symptoms only after it has progressed to a point requiring complex treatment. This emphasizes the need for routine screening to detect cancer at an early stage. Some common signs of cervical cancer include bleeding between periods, post-coital bleeding, postmenopausal haemorrhage, and abnormal vaginal discharge.’’

Dr. Rana Choudhary, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Apollo Spectra Mumbai, “As cervical cancer has a long precancerous stage that lasts for around 10 to 15 years, it can be easily diagnosed with a simple PAP smear test and early diagnosis of the disease is possible. In general, a Pap test is advised every three years, and if paired with an HPV test in sexually active women over 21 years old till 65 years. The interval between testing period can be extended to five years.”

Dr. Choudhary, most occurrences of cervical cancer are caused by high risk human papilloma virus (HPV) strains. In most cases, a woman’s immune system stops HPV from doing any harm after exposure. Cervical cancer, however, is brought on by extended persistent infection with high risk HPV strains in some women because the virus is not naturally removed by the immune system. The most common cause of getting HPV infection is by sexual route. Women who are sexually active at an early age or have multiple partners are at an increased risk for cervical cancers.

“Cervical cancer screening in form of Pap Smear can be done post the age of 23 for women who are sexually active and is recommended every 3 years after the age of 30. Timely screening will help prevent cancer by detecting the abnormal cells. One should have an HPV vaccination to lower their chances of developing cervical cancer. Ages 9 to 14 are recommended for vaccination as the vaccines work best when given at a younger age, especially before a female is sexually active. Those under the age of 26 can also get inoculated with a catch-up vaccination. Vaccines can be administered in form of two doses to children between 9 to 14 of age and via three doses for females of 14 to 26 ages.,’’ Dr. Sanghavi Concluded.

Dr Suhas Aagre, Oncologist and Hemato-Oncologist at Asian Cancer Institute said, ‘‘Cervical cancer is related to human papilloma virus infection. HPV related risk factors are early onset sexual activity , multiple sexual partners, high-risk sexual partners , and sexually transmitted diseases while HPV unrelated risk factors are smoking and OC pill use.’’

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