New Delhi (NVI): On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Suburban Diagnostics will be organising a Cervical Cancer Awareness campaign, to help spread awareness and educate women on the varied aspects of the disease.
Cervical Cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women globally and is the second most common cancer affecting women in India.
With approximately 1.32 lakh new cases of cervical cancer being diagnosed and about 74,000 deaths occurring annually, India accounts for nearly one-third of cervical cancer deaths across the world.
The awareness campaign’s aim is to reduce any stigma/reluctance around the screening tests, timely HPV vaccinations, along regular and mass screening which are crucial for bringing down the burden of cervical cancer in India.
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus which connects the uterus to the virus. What many people do not know is that cancer is caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (known as HPV for short).
This virus is sexually transmitted. There are many types of HPV and most do not cause any problems. The ones that do are called High-Risk HPV strains (HPV-16 and HPV-18).
90% of all HPV infections get resolved spontaneously within 2 years. However, in a small percentage of people, the virus can persist and cause cancer – this process can usually take anywhere between 10 to 20 years or more.
Almost every case of cervical cancer can be prevented by cervical screening and by vaccination against the Human papillomavirus (HPV).
All women should have access to cervical screening and all adolescent girls should have access to HPV vaccination.
Cervical cancer becomes symptomatic only after it has progressed beyond a certain stage. And even then, the symptoms may be ignored because they can mimic common problems that women face.
The most common symptoms include bleeding in between periods or after intercourse. It can also cause pain during urination and vaginal discharge.
However, the best way to detect cervical cancer is by by performing regular PAP smears along with testing for HPV at least once every 5 years after the age of 25.
In the PAP smear test, a doctor gently scrapes some cells from the cervix. These cells are then examined microscopically for early signs of cancer.
Meanwhile, an HPV test can be performed from the same sample and will tell you if an infection is present. It can take decades before changes can be seen even at a microscopic level. This is where knowing whether you have an HPV infection becomes vital.
Detecting an HPV infection can help better monitor and facilitate early diagnosis of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions.
It should be noted that co-testing – doing a PAP smear and an HPV test simultaneously – is the best option to determine the risk as well as the current status of the patient’s cervix at a microscopic level.
In this regard, Suburban Diagnostics did a study of all the PAP Smears and HPV testing done over a period of 5 years.
It was found that knowing the results of a PAP smear test alone cannot predict the HPV status or future risk of the patient.
According to the study, knowing the PAP smear result will lead to only a 2.9 percent decrease in error in the ability to predict the HPV status of the patient (i.e. whether the patient has an HPV infection or not).
Through the campaign, they also aim to inform people that cervical cancer is preventable.
As it is caused by a virus, a vaccine has been made available for it. It is most effective if given to girls before they become sexually active.