· India accounts for nearly one-fourth of the world’s cervical cancer deaths globally
· India records highest cervical cancer deaths in Asia
· India records 126,866 cervical cancer cases every year
· second leading cause of death with a mortality rate of 9.1%
· cervical cancer is not hereditary
“Did you know that cervical cancer is not hereditary? A lot of people believe in this myth and it is precisely these misconceptions that we wanted to address with our cervical cancer awareness campaign”, says Dr. Jayasree Reddy, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ankura hospital for women and children, Hyderabad
An estimated 126,866 cervical cancer cases are recorded every year in India and this number might be an underestimate as many cases remain undiagnosed in rural and impoverished
areas. Experts estimate that approximately 1 in 53 Indian women will get cervical cancer during their lifetime and currently, India accounts for nearly one-third of the global cervical cancer
The World Health Organization (WHO) had said that India is soon going to receive human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. In India, cervical cancer accounted for more than 9.4% of all cancers . It still is amongst the commoner cancers in India and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in low- and middle-income countries
January has been designated as cervical cancer awareness month worldwide and on this account, let’s look at some pertinent information about this disease. Cervical cancer is an abnormal tissue growth in the cells of a woman’s cervix and most cases are caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which is preventable by taking the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer develops very slowly over the course of many years. If the changes in the cervical cells are found in the early stages, it can be diagnosed and treated. If not, the cancer cells will spread to other parts of the body and it will become deadly.
You might be at higher risk for cervical cancer, if you:
● Started having sex before age 16 or within a year of starting your period
● Have multiple sexual partners
● Take birth control pills, especially for longer than 5 years
● Have a weakened immune system
● Have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
● Smoke cigarettes
There are a few ways to reduce the risk of cervical cancer and we can do our part by getting regular health checkups, especially between the ages of 30 and 39 as statistics inform that women of these ages account for the majority of cervical-cancer related deaths in India. A regular health checkup often involves a Pap smear test. It is a routine cervical cancer screening procedure and women should get a Pap test regularly from the age of 21.
In general to reduce cervical cancer risk, the recommendation is that if you are:
● 21–29 years old, get a Pap test once every 3 years.
● 30-65 years old, get a Pap or HPV test once every 3 years.
● Older than 65 years old, you may not need Pap tests anymore.
There is also another myth that if you have HPV, you will get cervical cancer. That’s not true. Usually, HPV clears up from our immune system by itself. In a small number of women, the virus stays in the body and over time causes cervical cancer.
This is the only cancer for which a vaccination is available for prevention. Vaccine against cervical cancer protects against multiple cancer-causing HPV variants. “Two licensed vaccines are available in India and vaccination can be opted in girls from the age of 9 years onwards,” says Dr. Jayasree Reddy, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ankura hospital for women and children, Hyderabad. The HPV vaccine is known to be most effective before women become sexually active, which is before they get exposed to the virus. Just like many other vaccinations this too can be planned in consultation with an expert at the right time for maximum protection. However, in case one has not been able to get the vaccine during earlier stages then one can take it till 26 years of age. Vaccination is also approved for women from 27 to 45 years, and since 20% of this cancer affects women aged 65 and above, elder women should consult their gynaecologist to discuss whether they should take the vaccine.
“Apart from timely screening and vaccination, practicing safe sex, having a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a good diet can help women stay protected against cervical cancer,” adds Dr. Jayasree. Availability of a vaccine against cancer is one of the greatest boons, women are thus advised to participate actively in taking timely screening and prevention measures against cervical cancer to reduce its increasing burden in India.