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Screening and vaccination are keys to prevent CERVICAL CANCER

  • 2023-01-14

In 2020, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, over 600,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 340,000 women died worldwide. Every 2 minutes, a woman loses her life to cervical cancer [1]. This loss can be prevented if you take the following steps:

HPV Vaccination, Regular Screening, Receive Treatment

Every year January is observed as Cervical Cancer Awareness month to spread awareness about its prevention and treatment.

Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer is most caused by HPV, human papillomavirus, which primarily spreads through sexual activities. Hence, always indulge in safe sex.

In the early stages (even in the precancerous stages), cervical cancers usually do not cause symptoms.

In the later stages, the symptoms include:

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding between menstrual cycles
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Vaginal discharge tinged with blood
  • Vaginal discharge with a strong odor
  • Pain in the pelvic area

CAUSES CERVICAL CANCER

The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), which is usually transmitted through sexual contact. Some of the factors that can up your risk of cervical cancer include:

  • Poor vaginal hygiene
  • Not enough time gap between children
  • Low nutrition levels
  • Early marriage
  • Being sexually active at an early age
  • Have multiple sexual partners
  • Smoking
  • Long term use of some birth control pills
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea and syphilis

TIPS TO PREVENT CERVICAL CANCER

1. Get vaccinated against HPV

The best way to prevent HPV infection is by getting vaccinated. HPV vaccination is recommended for all sexually active adults. In India, it can be given until age 45. However, the best time to get this shot is between 9-13 years of age, before you have started having any sexual activity.

Learn more about the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer: Its types, schedule & more.

2. Get your cervical health screened

If you are not eligible for the HPV vaccine, go for your cervical screenings-

Confused about what tests to take at what intervals to screen for your cervical health?

A gynecologist can help you.

Get online appointment with gynecologist

Or call 9801036380/9801831096

3. Practice safe sex

HPV is sneaky and can spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sexual activity. So, always indulge in safe sex. This reduces the risk of HPV infection, the main cause of cervical cancer. Always protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections.

4. Quit smoking

Women who smoke are two times more likely to develop cervical cancer [4]. Tobacco can change your cervix cell's DNA which may lead to cancer. It also weakens your immune system's ability to fight the HPV virus.

 

THREE COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CERVICAL CANCER

1. If I contract HPV (human papillomavirus) I will develop cervical cancer.

Reality: Not always

HPV can infect both men and women. If you are sexually active, you can get HPV. However, not every HPV-infected person will develop cervical cancer. In 9 out of 10 people, the HPV virus may get cleared by itself in 2 years [2]. In case it does not, health problems (like cancer) may occur.

2. I do not need to get screened because I do not have any symptoms.

Reality: That's not true

Screening helps in the early detection of cancer. You should not wait for symptoms to get screened. Early-stage cervical cancer may not have any symptoms. But early detection can increase the chances of survival as the treatment is started early on, and can also prevent disease progression.

3. If I start with a Pap test, I need to get tested every year.

Reality: Not necessarily

If your Pap smear test and HPV tests are normal, you do not need to get them every year. As per recommendations, women aged 25-64 can get an HPV test every 5 years, a Pap test with HPV every 5 years, or a Pap test alone every 3 years [3].

Sources:

1. WHO leads the way towards the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health concern. World Health Organization (WHO).

2. STD Facts - Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

3. New ACS Cervical Cancer Screening Guideline. American Cancer Society.

4. Cervical cancer: Risk factors, prevention. The American Cancer Society


Medically Reviewed by

Ramendra Kumar Raman, PhD, Clinical Research


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