Cervical cancer: early detection is the key to better disease management

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According to the Globocan 2020 report, around 18.3% of women in India are diagnosed with cervical cancer, among which the northeastern regions like Aizwal in Mizoram and Papumpare in Arunachal Pradesh have the most large number of cases. The burden of cervical cancer in India is huge, as the country recorded the highest estimated number of cervical cancer deaths in 2018, according to a research paper published in the Lancet Global Health .

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

Cervical cancer is a preventable disease and if caught early, it can be cured with better treatment. Yet it is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, said Dr Rajeev Vijayakumar, consultant, medical oncology, hemato-oncology, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru. In India, the lack of awareness of cervical cancer screening remains the biggest challenge as less than 30 percent of women aged 30-49 are screened for cervical cancer. According to the WHO, without further action, the annual number of new cases of cervical cancer is expected to increase from 5,70,000 to 7,000,000 between 2018 and 2030.

Some of the causes of cervical cancer are often:

Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual intercourse.
Irregular vaginal bleeding
Blood spots after sexual activity
Postmenopausal bleeding
Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Discomfort in the lower back and abdomen.

“It is advisable to see an oncologist if any of the above symptoms are visible,” Dr Rajeev said.

Risk factors

Some of the main risk factors that lead to cervical cancer are:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in most cancers of the cervix.

Smoking – It may increase the risk of cervical cancer in women compared to those who do not smoke. It creates cervical mucus inside the body, which increases the chances of fatal disease.

Weakened immune system – The virus that causes AIDS affects the immune system and puts people at risk for HPV infection. The immune system helps destroy cancer cells and stops their growth and spread.

Long-term use of birth control pills – Research shows that the risk of cervical cancer increases the more a woman uses OCs, but the risk decreases if OCs are stopped and returns to normal several years later.

Here’s why you shouldn’t delay preventive health checks. (Source: Getty Images / Thinkstock)

Multiple sexual partners– “It is one of the main risk factors in women. They are usually infected with high-risk strains of HPV and are at risk of cervical cancer, and studies have shown that HPV vaccination in young girls significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer. ‘uterus. Having a lot of sex affects vaginal health which can lead to pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, and premature delivery. In India, this subject is taboo and must be highlighted, ”said Dr Rajeev.

Early detection is the key to better disease management

The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030, for which 90% of girls must be fully immunized with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15; 70 percent of women screened before the age of 35, and again before the age of 45, among several other measures to adopt.

“Very few women are screened for cervical cancer, although India accounts for 16% of the total cervical cancer cases worldwide. Screening is a preventive service and various techniques have been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of the disease. Being able to find the diagnosis at an early stage can improve the chances of successful treatment and can avoid delay in diagnosis. In rural India, some of the barriers to early detection are ignorance, fear of cancer detection, drugs, infrastructure, poverty and illiteracy, ”said Dr Rajeev.

In India, besides cancer screenings, there are other tests like Pap smear screening, DNA-HIV test and several programs launched by the Ministry of Health that help in health promotion, screening, early detection, awareness and promotion of a healthy lifestyle. Two healthy habits that one should follow is to stop smoking and include healthy nutrients in the diet, said Dr. Rajeev.

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