Monday, February 1st, 2010

Combat Cervical Cancer

cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting a woman’s reproductive organs. Study says that nearly 500,000 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and nearly 250,000 die from it. Engaging in sexual activity at a young age is one of the factors that increases one’s risk of developing this type of cancer. HPV vaccine is approximately 70% effective in preventing the disease. Dr Kaushiki Dwivedee, senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology with Max Hospital, Gurgaon sheds light on this vaccine.

The cells lining the cervix do not fully mature until the age of 18 and, therefore, are more susceptible to cancer causing-agents and viruses. More than 90% of women with cancer of the cervix are infected with the ‘Human Papilloma Virus’ (HPV), a viral infection spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact. HPV is a group of over 100 different viruses, with at least 30 strains known to cause different types of cancer including cervical cancer. HPV 16 and 18 are particularly associated with it.

Signs and symptoms

Early cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. As the cancer progresses, these signs and symptoms may appear:
• Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
• Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour
• Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

Vaccination schedule

The virus usually infects women in their teens, 20s, or early 30s and researchers show that HPV vaccine protects from 70 % of strains causing the deadly cancer. Females between the ages of 9 years to 26 years are considered suitable for this vaccine. Ideally it should be started before a girl is sexually active but still can be given just incase the girl is not affected by the strains present in the vaccine.

The dose is required at 0, 3 and 6 months apart and is quite effective up to 6 years. The HPV vaccine is so expensive as it’s a complex process through which it is made and needs optimal temperature maintenance. Moreover, it is imported from foreign country by the Indian associate companies. The cost for this vaccine is approximately Rs 9, 000 for 3 vaccines.

Watch out

One might be hypersensitive or allergic to the vaccine and it can cause itching, rash or can even result as extreme allergic reaction. The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. If a woman finds out she is pregnant after she has started getting the vaccine series, she should wait until her pregnancy is over for the rest of the doses of the vaccine.


• India contributes 1/5th of the global burden of cervical cancer cases.
• The women most at risk for cervical cancers are married, in low socioeconomic strata, with limited education, and from rural areas of South India.
• A Pap test is the primary cancer-screening tool for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, many of which are related to HPV. Thus, yearly Pap tests are an important part of diagnosis of HPV for women.

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