Screening for cancer not on women's priority list: Survey

Educated Indian women are no more unaware of cervical cancer. But what is astonishing is the high incidence of this cancer in women.

The women prioritise work, personal appearance and social life over commitment to fight the most fatal cancer among them, a survey revealed.

Nearly 39 per cent of the women said they would invest in savings rather than going for regular health check-ups.

Almost half the women were found to be worried about their weight while only 24 per cent were tense about developing cervical cancer. Similarly, while 61.8 per cent women aspired for wealth and comfort, only 13 per cent put protection from diseases as a priority.

According to the World Health Organisation’s International Study for Research on Cancer, 2008, maximum number of cancer-related deaths amongst women in India are due to cervical cancer.

 It kills more than 72,825 women every year. For comparison, 53,592 women die of breast cancer, the second highest among women and 41,865 males die of lung cancer, highest among them.

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of women acquire an HPV infection and 50 per cent of those infections are with a cancer-causing HPV type.

“The awareness about vaccine for cervical cancer has to spread further. The importance of education, screening and prevention increases in this case because this is the worst cancer for women in India,” said Dr Meenakshi Ahuja, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis La Femme.

The three doses of vaccine are to be taken within six months. Each dose costs Rs 2,000 to 3,000.

“Countries like Australia and United Kingdom provide vaccine for free, but in India women have to shell out from their pocket,” said Dr Ahuja.

She said women cervical cancer is not a priority for women due to their social obligations.

The survey, which was commissioned and funded by GlaxoSmithKline, is based on responses by 18,000 women aged between 18-55 across 19 countries including Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania. In India, 1,009 women from various urban centres were surveyed.

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