Cervical Cancer is third most common malignancy worldwide, and it remains a leading cause of cancer related death in developing countries. In India it is second most common cancer in women. 80% of all deaths due to cervical cancer occur in developing, low and middle income group countries. In India, ICMR has shown through population based studies that 122,844 women are diagnosed annually with cervical cancer and 67,477 women die every year. Death due to Cervical Cancer has far reaching effect on family especially on children as death occurs in middle age.
What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
Human Papilloma Virus(HPV) has been found to be causative organism for cervical cancer but all HPV infected females don’t develop cancer. Beside this, early age of marriage, multiple sexual partners, poor genital hygiene, malnutrition, smoking, prolonged use of oral contraceptive are found to be risk factors . Sexual promiscuity leads to HPV infection.
What can be done to prevent the cancer?
Very effective screening programs are available for cervical cancer prevention. These comprises of PAP Testing along with HPV DNA testing by PCR method. Various International bodies including American Cancer Society (ACS)have issued guidelines for screening cervical cancer. Recently ACS has recommended only HPV DNA testing for screening . It is to be supported later on by colposcopy and directed biopsies. No screening is advocated for females below 21 years of age. HPV DNA testing is costly but in low resource countries like ours, Cytology alone every three years also suffices. Even Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid( vinegar) is an good alternative method which have been tested in Rural India specially in Kerala.
Now, very effective Vaccine for Cervical Cancer Prevention is available in market. It targets HPV 16,18 which are the commonest cause of cervical cancer. Two types of vaccine are available in market. These need to be given to girls between 11-13 years of age and consist of three doses. Recently, one more vaccine which is effective against 9 strains of HPV has been launched in America. Even after vaccination screening for cervical cancer is must.