Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
"Deal the Teal, Feel the Heal"
January is considered a month of hope and a new beginning where we are ready to welcome the year by making new resolutions. It not only emphasizes hope but also signifies the importance of cervical cancer awareness and a time to remember those wonder women who are fighting against it. Let's unite in the battle against cervical cancer and celebrate this month by spreading awareness to support every woman in our community.
Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in India and the 4th most common cancer in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 342,000 deaths were reported due to cervical cancer in 2020 globally. This shows the prevalence and impact of cervical cancer all over the world. Due to a lack of knowledge, hesitations, and limited access to medical care, women are victimized by this cancer, which leads to an increase in cervical cancer cases. We need to take a stand and spread awareness against this cervical intruder that affects our women warriors.
January is designated as a cervical cancer awareness month to spread awareness about the prevention of cervical cancer and the essentiality of vaccination in women. The theme for 2024 cervical cancer awareness month is “Learn. Prevent. Screen.”
Get An Insight Into Cervical Cancer
The cervix is the long, narrow end of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when the cells of the cervix begin to grow abnormally. The abnormal cells may eventually develop into cancer cells, which grow and spread deeper into the cervix and neighboring tissues when untreated.
Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer does not show any prominent symptoms in its early stage, but it may gradually increase when the cancer has grown and spread in the cervix. Some of the common symptoms of cervical cancer are given below:
- Irregular Periods or heavy bleeding during periods
- Vaginal bleeding (even after the menopause)
- Pain or bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge with a foul smell
- Frequent or painful urination
- Swelling of the legs
- Feeling tired
5 Cause For Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer can be caused by various factors; some of the causes of cervical cancer are given below:
1. Human papillomavirus (HPV): Individuals with HPV (high-risk strains) are at high risk of cervical cancer. It is the major cause of cervical cancer in girls and women.
2. Smoking: Women who have the habit of smoking are at risk of cervical cancer than non-smokers. Smoking makes immunity less effective against HPV, which leads to cervical cancer. However, the risk of cancer can also be increased if you are a passive smoker (secondhand smoke).
3. Weakened immune system: Individuals with weak immune systems, such as individuals living with AIDS/HIV or those taking immunosuppressive medications, are more susceptible to developing cervical cancer. Those are more prone to HPV infection, which causes cervical cancer.
4. Multiple sex: Having multiple sex partners may lead to HPV infection (sexual transmission), which increases the risk of cervical cancer in women.
5. Family history: Women who have a family history of cervical cancer have an increased chance of getting it. However, most cervical cancers are not inherited genetically, but some rare types can be passed down through genetic transmission.
It can be treated based on the stages of cervical cancer, severity, and health condition of the patient. The treatment options for cervical cancer are given below:
- Surgery: It is a process of removing the cancer cells in the cervix. Sometimes, doctors may remove the uterus (hysterectomy) in advanced cases.
- Radiation therapy: It uses radiation to kill or shrink the cancerous cells in the cervix.
- Chemotherapy: It uses chemo-drug, which helps to kill or stop the growth of the cervical cancer cells.
- Target therapy: This treatment uses drugs that specifically target the abnormalities in the cervical cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy medicines help to boost the immune response of individuals against cervical cancer.
Get Informed! Get Screened! Get Protected!
Cervical cancer can be screened in the following three main ways, which are given below:
1. Human papillomavirus test (HPV): It detects the strains of human papillomavirus that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
2. Papanicolaou (PAP) smear: This test looks for precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix.
3. HPV And PAP: The HPV/PAP combination test, also called co-testing, examines cervical cell alterations and the risk of HPV.
When To Start And Get A Screening?
If you're at the age of 21, you can ask your doctor for a PAP smear test. If the test results are normal, your healthcare provider will recommend you do the next PAP test three years later. If you are a 30-65-year-old woman, you can consult your doctor and do either HPV or PAP or a combination of both tests ( HPV/PAP ) to screen for cervical cancer in your body. Your doctor will advise the most suitable screening test for you based on your health condition.
Prevention For Cervical Cancer
The prevention methods are important to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Some of the preventive methods for cervical cancer are given below:
- Get regular screening
- Get jabbed with HPV vaccine
- Practice safe sex
- Quit smoking
- Follow hygienic practices
- Avoid multiple sex partners
Fear Not! Get Your Shot!
Vaccination can prevent most cervical cancer cases if given before the viral exposure. Currently, there are two types of HPV vaccine available in India. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 should get the vaccine to prevent cancers caused by HPV. The FDA has approved a human papillomavirus vaccine for children and individuals who are 9 to 45 years of age. Talk to your healthcare provider about your age and other medical conditions to check whether you require the HPV vaccine.
Good News! It's Time To End Cervical Cancer
The head of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) has recently announced that India would soon immunize girls aged 9-14 from human papillomavirus (HPV) under a national vaccination program. This program helps in preventing and providing immunization for our girls against HPV and cervical cancer.
Wrap It up
Even Though cervical cancer is highly prevalent in the world, it can be easily prevented by proper vaccination and prevention measures. Early detection helps to reduce the burden of treatment and to take proactive steps at an early stage. This January, we unite together against cervical cancer and spread awareness about the essentiality of vaccination and early detection to each and every woman around us. Let's protect and support our women warriors against the battle of cervical cancer.
"Your journey with cervical cancer is a chapter in your life, not the whole story."