Cervical cancer is preventable

A woman with a normal immune system takes about 15 to 20 years to develop cervical cancer, compared to the ones with a weak immune system who only take 5 to 10 years.

Health Women

Every New Year, many women take up resolutions for attaining fitness and becoming healthy. While most of them focus on weight loss, very few decide to set resolutions to go for regular health check-ups and screenings, particularly for preventing cancers which are common among women.

Of all the cancers, cervical cancer is the leading cancer among women, however, it is also the only cancer which is totally preventable if care is taken in the initial stage. Among the many cancers that Indian women succumb to every year, cervical cancer takes the second place after breast cancer.

Annually, about 75,000 women become a victim to it. This accounts to 25% of the world population who succumb to it. The reason behind this is ignorance.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which aims to create awareness on how women can protect themselves from cervical cancer. HPV (Human papillomavirus) is considered as the major cause of cervical cancer, therefore, raising awareness on both HPV and cervical cancer can help prevent cervical cancer completely.

Causes

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a proven cause of cervical cancer. It is present in mouth, anus and genital areas and nasal cavity of the body. It is a most common virus present in humans worldwide. Of the 100 kinds of HPV virus present, 13 are cancerous. Out of this, type 16 and 18 cause 70% of cancers. It is a virus which is estimated to be present in 75% of the population that is in the reproductive age.

Who is at risk?

The virus can also be sexually transmitted. Having multiple partners just increases the risk of contracting the virus. Skin-to-skin genital contact can also transmit HPV virus. Smoking, which affects our body’s immune system, also leads to cervical cancer. It is present in higher quantities in men. The virus starts acting immediately after it gets in touch with a body. While sometimes it dies if the immune system of a body is high, in other cases, it might stay for a longer time and get cancerous. A woman with a normal immune system takes about 15 to 20 years to develop cervical cancer, compared to the ones with a weak immune system who only take 5 to 10 years.

Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer appear only after the cancer reaches an advanced stage. Some of them have irregular intermenstrual bleeding, abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, back, leg or pelvic pain, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, vaginal discomfort or odorous discharge and single swollen leg. During the advanced stages, women may see many more severe symptoms.

Detection

Any woman who is sexually active should start screening of cancer with a Pap smear test yearly for three years. Discharge from cervical area is taken and examined. Another test called Colposcopy can also be conducted where unusual behaviour of any cell is checked. They check for ulcer and white discharge from the body, cervical cancer screenings at an early stage can also detect abnormal cells before they actually turn into cancerous cells.

It is also important for parents to get their pre-teens HPV vaccines. Both boys and girls need the vaccine. Unfortunately, acceptance of vaccine is less in India.

Prevention

Many women in India don’t want to believe that even they can be affected by cervical cancer. But a simple HPV vaccine can save them from getting affected by the deadly condition. It can be administered to children in any age group between 9 and 11, while catch-up vaccination is recommended till 26 years of age. But, it would be more effective if it is given early. One has to take three doses of it to make sure they are immune to it. Pregnant women must avoid taking the vaccine.

 

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Cervical cancer is preventable

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