Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India. Cervical cancer is a slow growing cancerous tissue in the cervix which is a lower part of uterus. Most of the cervical cancer is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer is a highly preventable in most of the western countries because of screening tests and vaccine to prevent HPV infections are available. Most commonly women over age 30 are at risk of HPV infection. HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer in India, nearly 73,000 women in India die from disease. 

HPV infection is one of the major risk factor for cervical cancer. Other risk factors are:

  • People with suppressed immunity (HIV) are more likely to develop cervical cancer
  • Smoking
  • Overweight and obese women
  • Multiple full term deliveries at younger age
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Family history of cervical cancer 

How to prevent cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is highly preventable disease. In order to prevent cervical cancer, people need to be educated and aware about the risk factors related to the disease. In many developing countries like India, most of the women are unaware about the gynecological dreadful diseases like cervical cancer. Many Indian women give child birth at very young age (18 to 20). Such women are very likely to develop cervical cancer. Women need to be educated about associated risks of early age pregnancy and multiple pregnancies. 

Another way to prevent the cervical cancer is early detection of the cancer through screening tests like Pap smear. Developing countries are less likely to get involved in screening tests because of high cost of the test and people are unaware about such tests. The screening examination like Pap smear helps to detect the cancer at early stage so that the patients can be treated earlier before the spread of cancer cells to distant body parts. Doctors and general physicians must convince the women to get screened for cervical cancer.   

In developed countries like United States, HPV vaccination has helped to prevent getting cervical cancer through HPV infection. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sexual contact. Hence most of the sexually active people would have HPV infection and some of them develop into cervical cancer. However  HPV vaccine is considered as a controversial issue because the vaccine does not guarantee the complete protection from cancer.  

Another way to prevent cervical cancer is to be loyal to your partner and be monogamous. Sexual relationship with multiple partners increases the risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

Some information about HPV vaccine

HPV vaccine protects against HPV infection and HPV related diseases like cervical cancer, cancer of genitals and genital warts. HPV vaccine is given in three shots over 6 months. It is recommended for boys and girls with 11 or 12 years of age because it develops immunity before they get sexually active. HPV vaccine is also recommended to young women and teens through age 26 who did not get vaccinated at younger age. However vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. Two vaccines are available and both of them protect against cervical cancer in women.  One of them is recommended for males which protect against genital cancer and genital warts in males.  

There are some controversy associated with HPV vaccine. Many researchers have observed that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation and neurological disorders, however it is not scientifically proven yet. 

Cervical cancer and HPV infection are closely associated but remember that many people who are infected with HPV may not develop cervical cancer. It is important to take other factors into consideration and make an effort to prevent the large cases of cervical cancer. 

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