Cervical cancer is a growing reality and the annual number of cervical cancer cases in India alone is 1, 34,420! cautions Dr. Mohana vamsy, Chief Surgical Oncologist at Omega Hospitals. He further adds that the annual number of cervical cancer deaths is 72,825 and the projected number of new cervical cancer cases in 2025 is estimated to be 2, 03,757.
What is Cervical Cancer?
When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (the birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. “Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-up. It is also highly curable when treated early. All women are at risk for cervical cancer and it occurs most often in women over 50,” says Dr. Mohana Vamsy.
The Cause: The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of those who are sexually active will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women get cervical cancer. A woman is more likely to get HPV if she has been sexually active at an early age or if she or her partner has had sex with multiple partners. However, any woman who has ever had sex is at risk for HPV. There are many types of HPV. Usually HPV disappears by itself, but if it does not, it may cause cervical cancer over time. In addition to having HPV, smoking, having HIV, using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years) and having given birth to three or more children can also increase the risk of cervical cancer.
Prevention: Dr. Mohana Vamsy emphasizes that “The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. Women should start getting regular Pap tests done at age 21 or within three years of their first intercourse—whichever happens first.
Get the HPV vaccine: The human body is able to get immunity against the vast immunity of bacterial and viral infection by the production of antibodies. However infection by the Human papillomavirus does not lead to production of antibodies and hence infection is lifelong which can lead to chronic consequences including cervical cancer. Only the HP Vaccine elicits the production of antibodies which permanently protects against HPV infections. HPV Vaccine protects against the types of Human papillomavirus that most often caused Cervical, Vaginal and Vulvar cancers.
It is a series of 3 shots spread out over a 6 month period. Girls as young as 9 years old can be given the vaccine and women from age 19-46 should at the very least discuss the option of getting HPV vaccine.
- Dr. Ch. Mohana Vamsy
MS (Gen), DNB (Surg), Mch (Surg, Onco), FRCS (Edin) Diploma in lap Surg (France) Chief Surgical Oncologist