Hello ladies! Today I shall be talking about the newest gynaecology scare out there- Cervical cancer.
So should you be concerned? Well yes. Cervical cancer is the commonest gynaecological cancer in the world affecting more than 1,00,000 women in India every year.
So are you at risk?
Yes…and no….let me explain. The most common cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is asexually transmitted virus which more than 80% of us will contract during our lifetime. Does that mean we will all get cervical cancer? No. But can we get cervical cancer? Yes. A family history of cervical cancer increases the likelihood of contracting the disease two to three fold. Cigarette smoking, co-infection with HIV, having >3 births, using birth control pills for more than 5 years- all these factors have also been shown to be related to an increased incidence of cervical cancer.
So what should you do?
While Cervical cancer is common, it is also highly preventable. Here’s what you need to do- if you are a woman who is sexually active, you need to get a Pap smear screening done as soon as possible. If all is well, you may wait 3 years before getting re-tested. This routine and regular screening is a must for early diagnosis of the disease before it spreads to other parts of the reproductive system and the rest of the body. Screening by Pap smear is recommended until you turn 65.
If the Pap smear is abnormal, your gynaecologist may recommend an HPV test given that a majority of these cancers are caused by HPV virus. The results of these two tests are read together and the final decision is taken by your gynaecologist.
Is there a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer?
While there is no vaccine that directly prevents cervical cancer from occurring, there is a very effective vaccine available in the market against HPV virus- the main causative agent for cancer. This vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots for full protection and is recommended not just for females but also males between the ages of 9 and 26 years. Recently, FDA approved the use of this vaccine for all individuals even up to the age of 45 years. However, the efficacy of the vaccine reduces if it is given once the individual is sexually active since they have already been exposed to the virus. Full vaccination reduces the rate of certain types of cervical cancer by up to 99%.
So if you haven’t had your screening or vaccination yet, now is the perfect time for you to start.
If there are any more doubts or queries that you may have regarding cervical cancer or the vaccination, do feel free to contact Dr. Suneet Tayal.