September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness month. All women are at risk for cancers of the Cervix, Ovaries, Fallopian Tubes, Uterus, Vulva, and Vagina. Each gynecological cancer has different signs and symptoms and risk factors. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Indian women.
Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina. Ninety-nine percent of cervical cancer cases are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV). HPV is an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact and most people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime. Though the majority of HPV infections clear up on their own and cause no symptoms, in some cases the infection can persist and develop into cervical cancer or other HPV-related cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervix is a part of the reproductive system and is sometimes called the neck of the womb. Cervical cancer is cancer that’s found anywhere in the cervix. Cervical cancer usually grows very slowly and how serious it is depends on how big it is if it has spread and your general health.
In most cases, symptoms include, abnormal vaginal bleeding is the first noticeable symptom of cervical cancer. This can be during or after sex, between your periods, or after you have been through menopause. Other symptoms of cervical cancer may include pain and discomfort during sex, unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge, and pain in your lower back or pelvis. Advance cancer symptoms may include frequent peeing or pooping, swelling in the legs, blood in the urine, and/or urinary incontinence.
Treatment for cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. Cancers diagnosed in late stages can also be controlled with appropriate treatment and palliative care.
Survey says that cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. “In 2018, an estimated 570 000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and about 311 000 women died from the disease”.
How can I prevent cervical cancer?
- Get regular cervical screening done with PAP test and HPV tests is the best way to identify abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix at an early stage.
- Get your cervical cancer or HPV vaccination
- Avoid smoking
- Practice safe sex
According to WHO, HPV vaccination and screening for and treating precancerous lesions will prevent most cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer is preventable and curable, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.
The global strategy for cervical cancer elimination by WHO
In May 2018, the WHO Director-General announced a global call for action to eliminate cervical cancer, underscoring renewed political will to make elimination a reality and calling for all stakeholders to unite behind this common goal.
In August 2020 the World Health Assembly adopted the Global Strategy for cervical cancer elimination.
On November 17, 2020, WHO launched a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer, with a resolution passed by 194 countries.
About the vaccine
The HPV vaccine comes in 3 doses and each costs Rs. 2000 per dose. Anyone with a vulva who is between 9 to 45 years of age can get this vaccine. Apart from this regular screening and treatment of precancerous lesions are essential in prevention. If you haven’t got your cervical vaccine yet, speak to your physician and get one now.
If you are looking to spread Cervical Cancer Awareness within your community or organization, you can connect with CAPED INDIA at +91-9873162532. CAPED is an Indian NGO working in the area of Cervical Cancer Awareness Prevention & Early Detection for Cervical Cancer-Free Future.