Every year, the ‘Cervical Health Awareness Month’ is observed in January. This year’s theme ‘Learn, Prevent, Screen’ emphasised the need to educate people about minimising cervical cancer risks and importance of regular screenings, especially in India which ranks first in Asia in the number of cases of cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer, which is related to the uterus, is one of the major types of cancer in females in India and worldwide. In India, though the data is somewhat insufficient, it definitely comes just after breast cancer among females. Both these cancers are very common in Indian women,” Dr Jyoti Yadav, a gynaecologist and director of Kamla Hospital, Gurugram told Patriot.
According to a Lancet study on the disease in December 2022, India accounts for a very high number of deaths from cervical cancer in the world with 23%.
She explained further, “There is a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV ) which is the cause of cervical cancer. The cancer develops slowly after the body gets infected with HPV. Since there is no awareness of it in India, it is also difficult to measure the cases in terms of percentage.
“Women experience menstrual problems in this type of cancer. They should contact the doctor and shouldn’t ignore the symptoms.”
Dr Jyoti lamented that even though we are living in an age when tests to screen the whole body are easily available, women generally approach doctors when it is too late.
“We suggest that women over 40 years old should get regularly checked just to find out if there is a virus in the body. Paxmier is a very simple test, an OPD level that we conduct regularly even in awareness camps. Through this, we can confirm if someone is suffering from cervical cancer or not,” added Dr Jyoti, who is also the chairperson of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Gurugram.
CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER
Smoking, early sexual activity are some of the reasons that can lead to cervical cancer.
“Smoking is the major reason. Early sexual activity and sexual relations with multiple partners can also lead to this disease. Infection of any type also increases the chances of it, like infection through sexual relations with multiple partners,” added Dr Jyoti.
Abortion has also emerged as the key reason for cervical cancer.
“Any type of abortion, either from instruments or pills can lead to cervical cancer. I always suggest couples to not get pregnant and take precautions, instead of going for abortion. Even though they don’t feel the effects at a young age, they end up facing problems later.”
The doctor added that there is a lack of awareness about this type of cancer.
“It is very important to be aware of it. Due to low level of literacy in rural areas, we are unable to run awareness campaigns effectively. Until and unless it is detected, it cannot get treated.”
She said that cervical cancer, which she calls “the cancer of the uterus mouth” is deadly and can be treated only if it is identified at an early stage.
“This is a type of cancer that can be treated in an early stage. If we detect cancer early, the possibility of its treatment increases,” she said.
She also suggested vaccination as one of the ways to prevent it.
“Vaccine for it is already available now. So parents should ensure that their children should start getting vaccinated from the age of nine just like children are vaccinated for BCG, typhoid and other ailments.”
As many as 88% of Indian working women lack cervical cancer vaccination while 63% are oblivious to the existence of vaccines and screenings, a study by a platform ‘Plum’ has revealed after a survey of women working in over 3,500 corporations.
“Cervical cancer has also reached a dangerous level. The authorities should promote vaccines which should also be made cheap since they are a little costly at the moment. Awareness, education in schools and early detection is necessary so that we can prevent it from becoming rampant,” added Dr Jyoti.