Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India, with approximately 1.32 lakh new cases of cervical cancer being diagnosed and about 74,000 deaths occurring annually, accounting for nearly one-third of cervical cancer deaths across the world.
According to 'Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card' released by the Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition, India represents 26.4 percent of all women dying of cervical cancer globally, with China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Thailand also showing high death incidence. But the good news is that cervical cancer is treatable, if found early enough.
In an exclusive interview with Shruti Saxena of ZeeNews.com, Dr Meenakshi Ahuja, the director (Gynaecology & Obstetrics) Fortis La Femme, speaks about various aspects of the disease.
Shruti: Please tell us about what actually is cervical cancer?
Dr Meenakshi: Cervical cancer is the commonest cancer among women in India. Every seven minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the cancer of mouth of uterus or womb, known as cervix.
Shruti: What are the first signs that indicate one might be suffering from cervical cancer?
Dr Meenakshi: Unfortunately, early signs of cervical cancer are very non-specific like vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor, or tinged with blood, and lower abdomen pain. Later, symptoms like pain and bleeding during intercourse, weight loss etc may develop.
Shruti: How can Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection develop cervical cancer?
Dr Meenakshi: All incidence points out that cervical cancer is caused by infection by a virus, called the Human Papillomavirus or HPV. Certain strains of this virus are oncogenic or cancer causing, especially 16, 18 infections.
Shruti: Does leading a unhealthy lifestyle contribute to the risk of developing cervical cancer?
Dr Meenakshi: Sexual activity in early age and multiple sexual partners increase the chances of HPV transmission and cervical cancer. Low immune status will also cause rapid spread of the disease.
Shruti: What are the methods of prevention and treatment of cervical cancer?
Dr Meenakshi: It is now possible to prevent cervical cancer in women by vaccination. Three doses of the vaccine are recommended for all women belonging to the age group of 9- 45 years. The earlier the vaccine is given, better the protection. Annual screening for cervical cancer is recommended in all women if they are over 30 years of age or sexually active for three years, irrespective of their immunisation status.
Treatment of cervical cancer is by extensive surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy depending on the stage of the disease.