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Regular screening can help prevent cervical cancer

Date : January 21, 2022

Mohali, January 21, 2022: Cervical cancer is a major cause of mortality in women across the world and the second-most common malignancy among Indian women.

With January being observed as the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Divya Awasthi, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital Mohali, gives us a detailed insight on cervical cancer.

What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix — the opening between the vagina and the uterus. If diagnosed early and managed effectively, cervical cancer can be treated successfully. The majority of cervical cancer cases are reported in the age group of 35-60 years.

Factors that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer are:

  • HPV infection: Nearly 99% of all cervical cancer cases are caused due to Human Papillomaviruses (HPV), a common virus transmitted through sexual contact. Even as a majority of infections with HPV resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women.
  • Immune system deficiency: Chances of developing cervical cancer increase if one has a weakened immune system.
  • Oral contraceptives: Women who overuse birth control pills are also at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Smoking: The risk of developing cervical cancer increases among HPV positive women.
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases: STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis can further increase one’s risk of getting cervical cancer.

Signs & symptoms
Certain health conditions that may warrant immediate medical intervention are:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Contact bleeding (after intercourse)
  • Intermenstrual bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Pelvic pain

Prevention is the key
Cervical cancer has a long precancerous phase of around 8-10 years. Cervical cancer can be diagnosed through three types of screening modalities – Pap cytology, Cytology and HPV co-testing or HPV testing. Pap smear testing is recommended every 3 years, if normal. Any abnormality on pap result is confirmed by colposcopy and cervical biopsy. The HPV vaccine can help prevent most cases of cervical cancer if administered to girls during adolescence.

Early stage cervical cancer is treated through surgery and the advanced stage disease is treated by Chemo-radiation. Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer during pregnancy have an early stage disease. Treatment depends upon the stage of disease, gestational age and fetal development. In some cases, the baby is delivered and then treatment is initiated. Early screening is the need of the hour.

Stressing upon diagnosis and treatment, Dr Awasthi, added, “Early screening can help detect cervical cancer. Vaccination during adolescence decreases the risk of developing the cancer in the later years. Women need to be careful about changes occurring in their body and should seek immediate medical intervention in case of any symptoms.”

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