Nipping Cervical Cancer in the Bud
India has a population of 432.20 million women aged between 15 years and above. As per Human Papilloma virus and Related Diseases 2015 stats report, most of them are at a risk of developing cervical cancer. At present, every year around 12 lakh women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Nearly 67 thousand women out of this succumb to the disease. Currently, cervical cancer is the 2nd most common form of cancer that affects women between 15 and 44 years of age.
There is lack of awareness about the issue, as in many states and cities cervical cancer is considered as a taboo due to social stigmas of sexual transmission attached to it. The condition is caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that can also cause genital warts. As a result most women are reluctant to go even for a preventive checkup. One of the most effective preventive checkups for cervical cancer is Pap smear.
Pap smear is basically a procedure that collects cells from the cervix (lower, narrow end of the uterus) that’s at the top of the vagina. The test can identify even slight changes in the cells. It usually gives 80% of subsection that the women may develop cervical cancer.
Detecting cervical cancer at an early stage gives a greater chance of quicker recovery and cure.
A Pap smear is useful in detecting any future possibilities of contacting the condition. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is the first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer. It is one of the most common methods used for the early diagnosis of cervical cancer.
There are four stages of cervical cancer. In the first stage the cancer is only at the cervix and can be treated with medications. In second stage the cancer begins spreading to other organs such as uterus. The virus spreads beyond the ovaries in the third stage and in the fourth and final stage the cancer spreads to vital organs such as liver and stomach and the life expectancy is very low in this stage.
Most adults are infected by the HPV virus at some point in life. The infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important for women to have regular Pap tests. Incase women notice any abnormal symptoms such as Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause, Pain in the lower belly or pelvis, Pain during sex, Vaginal discharge that isn’t normal it’s advisable to undergo a pelvic test.
As part of regular pelvic exam, one should have a Pap test once in every three years. During a Pap test, a small sample of cells is scraped from the surface of the cervix to look for cell changes. If a Pap test shows abnormal cell changes, the doctor may do other tests to look for pre-cancerous or cancer cells on the cervix. The most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes and there are ways to stop this disease from developing. So it is advisable to take up regular pap smear test.
This way one is more prepared to recognize and treat pre-cancers before it becomes true cancers, and in some cases regular check-ups can help prevent development of pre-cancer.
Article written by
Dr. Parimala Devi
Consultant Obstetrics & Gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital
Dr. Shalini Joshi
Consultant Internal Medicine Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore