All women have a risk of developing cervical cancer, a type of cancer that tends to occur in the cells of the cervix (which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina). The condition, however, occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Most of the cases can be linked to Human Papillomavirus and various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer. One may exhibit symptoms like a bloody vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain during intercourse when cancer strikes.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Opting for routine Pap tests, getting vaccinated, practising safer sex, and making healthy lifestyle choices such as cutting down on smoking can help prevent cervical cancer. According to the research published in the journal Lancet Global Health, India recorded the highest estimated number of cervical cancer deaths in 2018. This is alarming and hence, the need of the hour is to tackle cervical cancer at the earliest.
Listed below are a few preventive measures that can help women to keep cervical cancer away:
Quit smoking: It is a well-known fact that smoking is injurious to health. Smoking can not only cause respiratory issues, but it can also lead to cervical cancer. According to various studies, tobacco by-products tend to damage one’s DNA of cervix cells and in turn, invite cervical cancer. Thus, it is essential to opt for smoking cessation therapy and quit it as soon as possible.
Regular Screening: Pap-smear is a basic screening test to detect abnormalities of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, in females, especially, the presence of cancer or precancerous cells. Pap-smear screening of 2203 females revealed that 28% had an abnormal report (as per Indus Health Plus data) that could again range from mild inflammation to serious conditions like cervical cancer. The maximum number of abnormalities were noted in the age group of 41–50 years which is the peri-menopausal period in females, leading to a lot of hormonal changes which could trigger a variety of changes in the female reproductive system. Any abnormality detected in a pap-smear test should be brought to the notice of a gynaecologist and early detection can prevent complications and increase the chances of cure. Hence a routine pap-smear screening is recommended for all adult females as it has emerged as a very effective screening test for women wellness.
Safe sex: Various studies have shown that women who have multiple sexual partners without protection are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. So, try to adhere to safe sex methods while having intercourse. Also, bleeding between intercourse should be thoroughly evaluated.
Vaccination: There is a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV that may cause cervical cancer. You must discuss with your doctor about these vaccines. Your doctor will help you to understand when you are eligible for it. He or she will set a proper schedule and may brief you about the age, and the duration in which you need to get vaccinated.
Lifestyle modifications: Keeping your weight in check and not ignoring symptoms like abnormal or watery vaginal discharge and opting for a well-balanced diet can also be helpful. Try to include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and do not forget to follow-up on abnormal pap-smears.
Likewise, more awareness should be created about this life-threatening cancer. Women should be educated and informed about cervical cancer as doing so can help women deal with it in a better way. Moreover, cervical cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, but it is preventable and treatable.
(The writer is a preventive healthcare specialist)