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Concern over growing number of cervical cancer cases

Staff Reporter

‘If diagnosed in its very early stage, it may not be life-threatening’

NEW DELHI: A panel of medical experts have expressed the need to tackle the growing number of women who are being diagnosed with cervical cancer in the country and advised an informed approach towards the new cervical cancer vaccine available in the India market.

According to a study by eminent medical experts, world-wide five lakh women die every year, of which over lakh deaths occur in India alone.

“This is the only cancer which can be prevented by vaccine and which if diagnosed in its very early stage may not be life-threatening. The cervical cancer vaccines should be given in three doses over a period of six month in the age group of 10 year to 45 years,” said Rockland Hospital senior gynaecologist Dr. Sheetal Agarwal.

Risk factors

“Of course there is no way to know for sure if you’re going to get cervical cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get cervical cancer than another woman. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean you will get cervical cancer. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and still not get cervical cancer. With cervical cancer, it is rare to get the disease if you have no known risk factors, but it is possible,” she added.

Doctors have advised check-ups to catch and prevent this cancer.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a necessary cause of cervical cancer and an HPV infection is usually harmless and temporary. Anyone who has had sex, both men and women, can get an HPV infection.

It is estimated that three out of four people between the ages of 15 and 49 will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. Most people with HPV never know they are infected because the virus tends to go away on its own.

Many types of virus

“There are many types of this virus. Only a few high-risk types can cause cervical cancer. The only way to tell if you have a high-risk type of HPV is to be tested. About 15 types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer and HPV types 16 and 18 causes about 70 per cent of all cervical cancers,” said Dr. Agarwal.

If high-risk types of HPV do not go away on their own, they may lead to cervical cancer. Infection with persistent high-risk HPV has been shown to cause virtually all cervical cancers.

“Women get into the high-risk category by having sex with someone who has the virus. Protected sex helps but not always. If you smoke, you have a higher risk of getting cervical cancer. You are twice as likely to get cervical cancer as women who do not smoke. Women with an HIV infection also have a weakened immune system. If you have HIV, it is harder for you to get rid of a high-risk HPV infection. As a result you have a higher risk of developing cervical disease or cervical cancer,” said Dr. K. K. Pandey, head Oncology Department at Rockland Hospital.

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