Authors: Dr.Reshmitha MBBS,DDM
Cervical cancer is found to be one of the most common cancer affecting females all over the world but also is an easily preventable disease. The concern about this topic is that this cancer could be even cured if detected earlier and the commonest cause of death in patients with this cancer is late detection.
WHO ARE AT RISK FOR CERVICAL CANCER?
People infected with HPV are at increased risk and the females who fall under these categories have a higher risk of cervical cancer following infection with HPV:
- Coitus before the age of 18 years.
- Multiple sexual partners.
- Females with sexually transmitted disease and viral infections.
- Poor socioeconomic status.
- Smoking and drug abuse including alcohol can contribute to cervical cancer.
- Women who do not go for regular health check ups and tests.
- HIV infected females.
- Continuous use of progesterone can also cause cervical cancer.
WHAT IS HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?
HPV is the commonest cause of cervical cancer and is a form of virus which is responsible to cause genital cancers in both men and women. Most HPV infections are symptomless in young women and clear within 2 years. Persistent infection in women above 30 years of age clear in 70-90% whereas the remaining 10% tend to progress to invasive cancer.
IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR HEALTH CHECK UPS IN WOMEN:
The latest recommendations by the American cancer society is as follows:
- Age 21 years or 3 years after vaginal sex if the female doesn’t start the sexual life by 21
- Followed every year by pap smear test or followed every 2 years.
- Every 2-3 years after the age of 30 because the highest risk occurs at the age of 30-39 years.
- Can be discontinued after the age of 70 in women who have had their uterus removed totally.
IS THERE A VACCINE TO PREVENT HPV?
Yes, there are two types of vaccines at present available for HPV
- GARDASIL vaccine acts against most of the strains of HPV
- CERVARIX vaccine acts only against two strains.
These vaccines should be given in the following time periods to adolescents before the start of sexual activity if possible and better.
GARDASIL: 0, 2 and 6 months
CERVARIX: 0, 1 and 6months
Immunity lasts for upto 10 years after which a re-immunisation may be required. This vaccine can also be used in males to prevent against genital warts, cancer of penis, anal and oropharyngeal cancers. If a women gets pregnant in between the vaccination course, the course should be stopped and can be started after delivery and during lactation.
Thereby, regular screening combined with vaccination can substantially reduce the worldwide cervical cancer mortality.
“PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE”- NEVER MORE TRUE!!!