As every year 1,32,000 Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 74,000 die of the disease, it is considered as one of the deadliest forms of cancer that leads to mortality in women.
If we see the Indian statistics, a large population of 436 million women falls into the age bracket of 15 years and above and they all are at the risk of contracting the disease.
The cervical cancer develops in the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina; this opening is called the cervix. It happens when cells in the cervix grow abnormally and get out of control. But, very few are aware of the fact that the cancer can be prevented if diagnosed at the right time.
It can be prevented with the help of regular PAP smear screening and an HPV vaccine, says Dr Manisha Ranjan, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynecology at Motherhood Hospital, Noida.
Through the Pap test, the abnormal cells in the cervix is detected that if not diagnosed on time may develop into cancer if left untreated are detected.
The doctor may apply a dilute acetic acid solution (vinegar solution) to the cervix, which causes abnormal areas to turn white. Further, a biopsy can be taken from the abnormal area.
Lack of hygiene can transmit HPV
The main way though transmission of the virus can take place is through skin to skin contact in the genital area. It’s not mandatory that the virus can be acquired without full sexual intercourse.
Therefore it’s essential to use protection as a helpful preventive measure. But, it is still not clear whether it fully protects women from acquiring the HPV.
Experts have seen the non-sexual transmission of the virus in our country. It can be due to the lack of hygiene in the women. The other direct factors leading to cervical cancer is long term use of hormonal contraceptives, high parity, tobacco and co-infection with HPV, says Dr. Ranjan.
Mass Vaccination: Need of the hour
In order to fulfill the World Health Organizations’ aim of eliminating 50,000 cervical cancer cases in India by 2050, we have to start a mass vaccination program as early as possible.
We have to ensure that 90 per cent of the girls receive the HPV vaccine by the age of 15, 70 per cent women screened by age 35.
Being one of the most life-threatening and dangerous female cancers, there are more than 150 types of HPV strains of which the two potent ones — HPV-16 and HPV-18 that cause cervical cancer.
The HPV is more virulent than HIV because they are made of only proteins and DNA and do not have an envelope, thereby it becomes a little difficult to get destroyed easily.
Therefore, it can be eliminated through vaccination only. HPV vaccines are very much available but people don’t have much awareness about it.
Despite the availability of the vaccine all around, there are fewer takers for this vaccine because women often ignore their health issues, concludes the doctor.