Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in females in India with more than 1 lakh new cases occurring every year and this is one fourth of the cases occurring in the world. Thankfully, this incidence has gone down a fit in last few years because of the change in lifestyle, screening. The peak age is though between 55 to 59 years, it does occur in women of younger age group as well.
The risk factors are a persistent infection by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in almost 85 -90 % cancers. Other risk factors are women having early age of sexual intercourse, early age of first birth, multiple children or abortions, having multiple sexual partners, and poor genital hygiene.
As the major cause is HPV infection, it becomes important to understand how this infection causes cancer? The virus causes changes in the lining of the cervix, or the mouth of the uterus,, which in usual circumstances are removed or cleared by the body immunity. Now when the body’s immune system goes weak, the infection persists/stays and this causes further changes in this lining. These changes take upto 5 to 20 years to convert to cancer.
Now the good news is that, because the cancer is caused by an infection, it easily preventable and we have a very effective vaccine to prevent this infection right from the age of 9 years. This vaccine when given to girls of age 9-15 years, prevents them from this HPV infection, later in their life, thus preventing cervical cancer. Though the recommended age of vaccination is 9-15 years, this can be given in females before they become sexually active even after 15 years if they did not receive it earlier, with good efficacy.
Also interesting to know is that we have a very simple test available with us to know if the cervix is healthy or infected or having any changes causing cancer in it.This is called PAPS test and is done in OPD only, in a painless manner. The test results can help doctors to pick up persistent infections and changes and then act accordingly to prevent the development of cancer cervix.
Very early cancers can be picked up by this test in stages when it is 100% curable. Yes, u read it write, 100% curable.Cervical cancer can be very easily prevented, and treated with excellent cure rates if detected in early stages.
January is dedicated as the Cervical cancer awareness month with the aim to spread awareness, so that we can completely eliminate this disease from the world. As a huge burden of these cases is from India, we can play a very important part in this fight.
So please join us in this fight, stay aware, get your daughters/sisters vaccinated, get PAPS test done, and we will surely win this battle!!!!
Dr. Aditi Aggarwal has worked in radiation oncology for ten years, treating patients with thoracic cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, bone and soft tissue cancer, gynecological cancer, breast cancer, and neurological cancers.
As a medical doctor, Dr. Aditi Aggarwal holds an MBBS degree from Lady Hardinge Medical College Delhi, a MD degree in radiation oncology from VMMC and Safdarjang Hospital Delhi, as well as a post-doctoral diploma in cancer research from Catalyst Clinical Sciences in Pune.
Cancer is usually classified into four stages, with stage 0 being the earliest stage and stage IV being the most advanced. The stage of a cancer is an important factor in determining the prognosis and the best treatment options. Here's a brief overview of the different stages of cancer:
Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of cancer, and it refers to cancer that is still in its original place and has not spread to other parts of the body. It is also known as carcinoma in situ.
Stage I: This stage means that the cancer is still small and has not spread to other parts of the body. It may be treatable with surgery or other local treatments.
Stage II: At this stage, the cancer is larger and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. It may be treated with surgery and/or radiation therapy, or other systemic treatments such as chemotherapy.
Stage III: This stage means that the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs and/or to distant lymph nodes. Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and/or systemic treatments such as chemotherapy.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of cancer, and it means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain. Treatment at this stage is typically palliative, meaning that it aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, rather than cure the cancer.
It's important to note that the staging of cancer can vary between different types of cancer and different systems used to classify the stages. Your healthcare provider can give you more information specific to your situation.
There is no single vaccine that can prevent or cure all types of cancer. However, some vaccines can help prevent certain viral infections that can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent HPV-related cancers such as cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancer.
Additionally, some cancers can be treated with a type of immunotherapy called cancer vaccines, which help stimulate the body's own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. These vaccines are still in the experimental stage and are only available through clinical trials.
However, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer, such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco products, and getting regular cancer screenings. Your healthcare provider can give you more information on how to reduce your risk of cancer.
The symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the type and part of the body of cancer, as well as its stage. Some common symptoms of cancer include:
It's important to keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and not all of them are present in all cases of cancer. If you are experiencing any symptoms that are new or persist for a long time, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the cause and get appropriate medical attention. Early detection and treatment of cancer can often lead to better outcomes.
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