Did you know that every 8 minutes a woman dies due to cervical cancer in India? According to a 2018 study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, India accounts for around 16% of the total deaths caused by cervical cancer across the world. Cervical cancer is one of the two common cancers that can be prevented with vaccination, the other being liver cancer. HPV vaccines are known to provide up to 90% protection if taken before being sexually active and exposed to HPV. Here’s more on cervical cancer, its cause, and HPV vaccination.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is the cancer of the opening of the uterus or womb, known as the cervix, and is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Indian women. 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
If you experience any warning signs and symptoms of cervical cancer or if any symptoms fail to subside, it is wise to consult a doctor.
What 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
– Long term use of some birth control pills
– Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea and syphilis
What Is Human Pappilomavirus (HPV)?
Human papillomavirus or HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts and cancer. Genital warts are soft growths on the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals. They may be found on the penis, vulva, urethra, vagina, cervix, and around and in the anus.
How does HPV spread?
The virus can spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who already suffers from the HPV infection. The virus can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms as the virus grows at a very slow rate and the symptoms usuualy appears during late stages.
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How can cervical cancer be prevented?
Cervical cancer can be prevented by practicing safe sex and by vaccination.
Currently, there are two vaccines approved in India for the prevention of cervical cancer. If given before sexual maturity, these vaccines can provide up to 90% protection against cervical cancer. These vaccines are:
– Gardasil™ (marketed by Merck)
– Cervarix™ (marketed by Glaxo Smith Kline)
These vaccines can be given to all females between the age of 10 to 26 years or as advised by the doctor.
The vaccine dose is 0.5 mL given through an intramuscular injection
Both Gardasil™ and Cervarix™ are given in three doses.
Gardasil™ is given at 0, 2, and 6 months. This means after you take the first dose, the next dose needs to be taken after two months and thereafter 6 months.
Cervarix™ is given at 0, 1, and 6 months. This means after you take the first dose, the next dose needs to be taken after a month and thereafter 6 months.
So, if you have a young female in your family, speak to your doctor about the Cervical Cancer Vaccine. It may just be the best gift that you give your daughter, sister, or friend! Stay healthy, stay happy!
1. Srivastava AN, Misra JS, Srivastava S, Das BC, Gupta S. Cervical cancer screening in rural India: Status & current concepts. Indian J Med Res 2018;148:687-96. http://www.ijmr.org.in/article.asp?issn=0971-5916;year=2018;volume=148;issue=6;spage=687;epage=696;aulast=Srivastava