Cervical Cancer: Is It Preventable?
According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer causes 300,000 deaths each year globally. What makes it even more tragic is that most of these deaths can be avoided. Yes, while cervical cancer has a reputation to be the deadliest, most forms of cervical cancer are preventable. Before venturing into the precautionary measures that help one keep cervical cancer at bay, let’s look into certain other aspects of the disease including India-specific statistics.
India and cervical cancer:
A research paper published in The Lancet Global Health has shocking statistics about the prevalence and mortality rate of cervical cancer in India. According to the paper, in 2018, India recorded the highest estimated cervical cancer deaths – a whopping 60,000! The other key finding of the study was that India and China together contributed to one-third of the global cervical cancer burden in 2018. In India, the rural-urban divide was clear in terms of cervical cancer – while in urban areas there has been a steady decline in cervical cancer cases, in rural areas the cases were comparatively more.
In all types of cancers and in many other diseases, early detection is the key. However, due to the invasive nature of the screening process, there’s a lot of shyness and stigma attached to it. Hence, the number of women who opt to do early screening is low. However, with modern technologies such as blood-based screening, this problem can be overcome with the desired result – improved survival rate. According to the World Health Organization, each minute a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in the world. Only by opting for early-screening and vaccination, the prevalence of cervical cancer can be curtained. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, ranking after breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer.
Most types of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus helps to prevent cervical cancer. HPV vaccination not only protects an individual from cervical cancer but also from other types of cancers such as vaginal and vulval cancer, HPV related oral cancer as well.
It’s ideal to vaccinate girls – and boys too – at the age of 11 or 12. It’s better to vaccinate them earlier, precisely before they are engaged in sexual contact and contract HPV. Giving them the vaccine once they are affected by HPV might not be very effective. When administered in young individuals, the vaccine works better.
The risk factors:
While studies are yet to ascertain the root cause, it’s been established that cervical cancer cases are way too prevalent in developing countries in comparison with developed countries. Also, the disease is more widespread in communities that are on the lower end of the socio-economic strata. Besides these, there are certain factors and lifestyle which are associated with cervical cancer.
- Early sexual activity
- Multiple sexual partners
- Other sexually transmitted infections
- Oral contraceptives
- Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug
Like many other conditions, cervical cancer shows no symptoms when it’s in the early stages. The symptoms in its advanced stages include vaginal bleeding after intercourse, vaginal discharge, pain / pelvic pain during sexual intercourse.
Remember, cervical cancer is preventable to a large extent. With a bit of care and caution, we can keep away the disease and lead a happy and healthy life.