Cervical cancer is the a silent killer of women- a threat that is largely unknown and thereby ignored .The symptoms of the disease only become evident when the cancer has already progressed to an advanced stage and there is very little chance of cure. Nearly 500,000 new cases and 274,000 deaths occur globally because of this menace…… so one can comprehend the massive disease burden of cervical cancer. The scenario is much more critical in developing and third world countries ,where the awareness level of cervical cancer among women is abysmally low . So a lack of awareness and effective screening programmes have led to an alarming rise in the death toll ……so much so that in countries like India and Pakistan it has been seen that approximately every 7 minutes one woman dies of cervical cancer . The most noteworthy fact is that every sexually active woman is at the risk of having cervical cancer throughout her life.
Some preliminary facts ……
What is cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is at a cancer of the cervix . Cervix is located at the entrance at the lower part of the vagina .
What causes Cervical Cancer …..
It has been seen Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the essential cause of cervical cancer . The virus gets transmitted during sexual encounters and remains largely localized in the cervico –vaginal region .Male acts as carriers. The most important point to note is for cervical cancer to occur ,persistent infection by HPV for a period of 10 -15 year needs to happen, which means the symptoms generally appear at a very advanced stage when the cancer has already invaded other organs . However not all HPV infections cause cancer as out of 100 isolated strains only 15 HPV types were found to be oncogenic. But one can gauge seriousness of this disease as it remains asymptomatic for a long period
Who is likely get to get cervical cancer
Young women are at the highest risk of acquiring an HPV infection which may lead to cervical cancer in the future . However, every woman is at risk of cervical cancer ,regardless of age so it is essential to protect them as early as possible . Although multiple sexual partners will definitely make it more conducive for HPV infection to thrive , studies have shown that women who are in monogamous relationships are at nearly 46% risk of acquiring cervical cancer which again reinforces the ubiquitous nature of the disease.
Detection & Protection ………
For detecting cervical cancer ,every woman needs to undergo regular screening programmes (like Pap smear test) However screening is only a secondary form of prevention, as it cannot prevent HPV infection from happening in the first place . The best form of prevention is Vaccination along with regular screening . Vaccination should be given as early as possible as the vaccines tend to elicit a better immunogenic response in a sexually naïve population .
Currently, there are two brands of cervical cancer vaccines available globally. . Cervarix of GlaxoSmithkline Pharmaceuticals and Gardasil of MSD . Both vaccines take care of the major oncogenic HPV strains and are found to be equally efficacious in bringing down the disease burden