Cervical Cancer is the third most common cancer in women in India. Every year nearly one lakh Cervical Cancer cases are registered. According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research(NICPR) - Every 8 minutes, one woman dies of cervical cancer in India.
Cervical Cancer mainly affects sexually active women of the age group between 21 to 67 years.
Cervical Cancer is predominantly a sexually transmitted infection. It is mainly caused by Human Papillomavirus which is commonly known as HPV. HPV can be passed through any time of sexual contact with a person infected by HPV, who could be either a man or a woman.
How HPV leads to Cervical Cancer?
There are more than 100 types (serotypes) of HPV. All of which do not cause cancer. However, some types of HPV cause some abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix which over a period of time lead to Cervical Cancer.
A fascinating fact to know is that more than 80% of women will be affected by the HPV infection by the time they are 50 years of age and all are not affected by Cervical Cancer.
The HPV virus develops stagewise to turn into Cervical Cancer
Therefore it takes nearly 2 to 15 years for the Cervical Cancer to progress in women.
Cervical Cancer in its early stages is asymptomatic or it does not show any prominent symptoms.
Though Cervical Cancer cannot be completely prevented, certainly there are ways to reduce the risk.
Cervical Cancer is diagnosed by a screening procedure called PAP Smear or Cervical Smear
During Cervical Screening, a small sample of cells are taken from the cervix and is tested for the presence of the HPV that can cause abnormal cells.
PAP Smear screening helps to find out the stage of growth of HPV - pre-cancer stage, early cancer or positive cancer stage
Who is excluded from Screening?
. Women whose previous two screen results are negative
. Women with Hysterectomy operation.
The World Health Organisation prescribes vaccine called GARDASIL to reduce the risk of Cervical Cancer. This vaccine prevents the HPV Virus which causes Cervical Cancer.
The vaccine is given to girls in the age group of 11 years to 15 years in 2 doses at an interval of 6 months. They should get an extra dose after 15 years until 24 years. So overall 3 doses compulsorily.
However, older women ( who are not vaccinated early) who are not affected by HPV infection can get themselves with 3 doses of vaccination in their reproductive age ie., till 55 years.