Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer amongst females in India and the first in several rural areas in India itself. But the good news is that it can both be prevented and treated. Every year lakhs of women are getting affected due to the cancer. Cervical cancer affects 1 in every 53 women.
Although, cervical cancer is on a decline overall in last few years, it is still the second most common cancer in females. Reasons for increased detection are the increased awareness in females, reproductive habits, in terms of having more number of children, early age at first child, multiple sexual partners, and poor genital hygiene.
These factors cause changes in the cells in the cervix(mouth of the uterus/baby bag), thus forming cancer. Interestingly this process takes many years, which means we have time to act before cancer even develops.
This cancer used to be the most common cancer and now breast cancer has taken over. The risk factors of cervical cancer is opposite of breast cancer. Factors such as multiple sexual partners, poor genital hygiene, multiple births, early birth of first child are risk factors increasing the risk of cervical cancer. Though, the number of cases per year has gone down, due to changes in lifestyle and reproductive habits.
As the opening paragraph indicates, a woman can prevent and treat cervical cancer by consulting a good doctor if she notices any above indicators or even before that by screening.
1. Papillomavirus vaccination : Some human papillomaviruses are linked to the development of cervical cancer in women in almost 85-90% of the cases. Therefore, every woman should take advantage of HPV vaccination programs to prevent this infection and in turn cancer.
2. Safe sex : The HPV vaccine protects against four types of the virus at best, which can cause cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is linked to sexual activity. To avoid HPV infection, have safe intercourse with restricted partners.
3. Cervical Screening : Cervical cancer screening with the help of a simple OPD process called PAPS SMEAR is one of the best ways to detect cancer before it even forms or at very early stages. This test is recommended by all National and International societies to be conducted every 3 years after being sexually active in all females. By this method, few cells are collected from the cervix and examined to detect these changes. Early detection can make treatment very simple in these cases with very minimal side effects.
4. Don't smoke : Smoking is incredibly harmful to your health, so it's no surprise that it's linked to cervical cancer. A study found that women who smoke had a higher risk of cervical cancer than women who don't.
5.Reproductive habits : Limiting the number of children, not having first child at an early age, having safe sexual practices, good genital hygiene can help in reducing these risk factors for cervical cancer.
It is the improved genital hygiene, reproductive habits and lifestyle habits along with awareness about screening and vaccination that can help in curbing the incidence of this deadly menace.
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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