Bhubaneswar, Aug 24: Cervical cancer is a significant public health concern in India, accounting for a substantial number of cancer-related deaths among women. The prevalence of this preventable disease is often attributed to limited awareness, inadequate screening, and lack of access to healthcare.
According to HPV Information Centre cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer among women in India, with an estimated 123907 new cases and 77348 deaths reported annually. However, with the introduction of cervical cancer vaccines, there is hope for a significant reduction in its incidence.
According to Dr Sujata Kar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist Doctor in Bhubaneswar, the primary cause of cervical cancer is persistent infection with high-risk strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STD) that can lead to the development of cervical lesions and, eventually, cancer.
Factors such as poor sanitation, multiple pregnancies, sexual activity at an early age and limited access to healthcare services also contribute to the prevalence of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer does not usually don’t exhibit symptoms well until advanced stages. Also, it is pretty easy to confuse symptoms of this cancer with other gynaecological diseases such as urinary tract infection, yeast infection, irregular menstrual cycle, etc. Here are a few symptoms you should watch out for:
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding. If it occurs in between your menstrual cycle, or after menopause, be alarmed.
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse.
- Excessive and abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge after menopause.
- Pap Smear Tests: Doctors can detect abnormal cell growth through a pap smear test. This involves swabbing the cervix with a cotton swab and then sending it for a close examination.
- HPV Test: The patient may be required to go through a human papillomavirus test. This is very similar to the pap smear test.
- Other Tests: Pelvic sonography, CT scan, and MRI are some other tests that may be conducted to detect cancer.
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. The available treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, laser ablation, cryotherapy and targeted therapy.
- HPV Vaccination: In India, HPV vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix are available and recommended for young girls and women between the ages of 9 and 43. Administering the vaccine before sexual debut provides the best protection.
- Regular Screening: Regular screening through Pap smears or HPV testing helps detect cervical abnormalities early, allowing for timely intervention. Regular screening can detect pre-cancerous changes in the cervix that can be treated before they progress to cancer
- Quit Smoking: Women who smoke are more vulnerable to cervical cancer.
- Safe Sexual Practices: Practicing safe sexual behaviours, such as using condoms, reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
Cervical cancer remains a significant health issue in India, but the introduction of HPV vaccines offers a ray of hope for its prevention. By increasing awareness, promoting vaccination, and improving healthcare access, India can make substantial progress in reducing the burden of cervical cancer and improving women's reproductive health. It is crucial for healthcare authorities, policymakers, and stakeholders to collaborate to ensure that cervical cancer vaccines reach those who need them the most, thereby contributing to a healthier future for Indian women.