Forms of cancer that are specific to women are breast cancer (though few cases of male patients are also there), ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer. It is estimated that in India, about 160 million women aged 30-59 years are at risk of developing cervical cancer, and 77,300 new cases are diagnosed annually with 37,800 deaths, representing a whopping case fatality rate of 49 per cent.
What is a cervix?
Cervix is a fibromuscular tissue that is connects the genitals with the Uterus and is also called as the mouth/opening of the Uterus
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix, the opening of uterus. The cells on cervix begin to grow abnormally and sometimes if they are not treated, they can become cancerous.
What are causes of Cervical Cancer?
The main cause for Cervical cancer is getting infected with virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is sexually transmitted and could have been acquired years ago, from the time when it is finally detected. There are various types (strains) of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.
Who are susceptible to HPV infections?
- Women who are sexually active with multiple partners
- Women whose partner(s) have / had more than one sexual partner
- Women with any sexually transmitted diseases
- Women with immune system related problems
Women have undergone any of the following are also likely to be susceptible –
- Steroid medications
- Transplanted organs
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer to watch out for –
- Unusual discharge from vagina
- Blood spots or light bleeding even without periods
- Bleeding after menopause
- Bleeding during or after sex
- Anemia as a result of abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Ongoing pelvic, leg or back pain
- Urinary problems because of blockage of kidney or ureter
- Bleeding from rectum or bladder
- Unusual Weight loss
If you witness any of these symptoms, a visit to the doctor for a check-up is must.
How to detect cervical cancer?
PAP smear test is commonly used for testing cervical cancer. This test assures strong sensitivity and specificity for detection of cervical cancer or pre-cancerous stages.
If the results of the PAP test points towards cervical cancer, the doctor may advice for colposcopy/biopsy procedure for further confirmation before the right treatment is implemented for the patient.
One of the most preferred method of cervical cancer screening for women between 30 to 65 years is PAP+HPV together (also known as Co-testing) to be done every 5 years. This method of testing is certified by ACOG (American College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists) and American Cancer Society.
Early detection and regular screening can save lives when it comes to cervical cancer.
When to take PAP test and a Co-testing?
- The right age to do the first PAP test for screening is within first 3 years of becoming sexually active.
- After age 30, you must repeat the test every 2-3 years after discussion with your physician/gynecologist
- Schedule your PAP when you’re not having your menstrual period
- Co- testing needs to be done every 3 years for the age group of 30-65
Talk to your doctor more about it, ASK QUESTIONS!
But the GOOD NEWS is Cervical cancer is the only cancer preventable by Vaccination. Talk to a gynecologist for more information on cervical cancer vaccination for you and your female peers.
Wishing you a very Happy and Healthy Life. Take care.
Contributed by Dr. Anita Shukla, Leading Gynecologist and Obstetrician.