Every woman is at risk of cervical cancer
Awareness is the first step towards prevention
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. It is also curable if detected early and adequately treated. Yet it is a major cause of cancer related deaths amongst women. More than a quarter of its global burden is contributed by developing countries. Every year over 550000 women get diagnosed with cervical cancer globally. Almost 25% of these cases i.e. around 120,000 women get diagnosed with cervical cancer in India.
The month of January is observed as Cervical Cancer Awareness month around the world. A multitude of efforts are being made to increase awareness and facilitate screening for early detection of cervical cancer.
It is important to know that cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are about 100 sub types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing, and two are predominantly responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases.
All sexually active women get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV infections clear up, without any intervention, within a few months of acquisition. However, in a small proportion, infection with certain high-risk types of HPV can persist and progress to cervical cancer over a period of time.
Risk factors for HPV persistence and development of cervical cancer also include smoking, early marital age, multiple pregnancies at a young age, having multiple sexual partners, co-infection with other sexually transmitted agents and long-term use of oral contraceptives.
It is important that adolescents are made aware of the risk factors of cervical cancer and healthy life practices. It is equally important that women -- 30 years or older -- are regularly screened for cervical cancer. Screening techniques are inexpensive and can easily detect abnormal to pre-cancerous lesions. With regular screening, it is also possible to detect cervical cancer in its early stages and save lives.