HYDERABAD : As we enter the month of festivities, we should not forget that our real wealth is our health. Since January has been designated as the cervical cancer awareness month worldwide, let us look at some pertinent information about this disease “Did you know that cervical cancer is not hereditary? A lot of people believe in this myth and it is precisely these misconceptions that we wanted to address with our cervical cancer awareness campaign”, says Dr KL Poornima.
Experts estimate that approximately 1 in 53 Indian women will get cervical cancer during their lifetime and currently, India accounts for nearly one-third of the global cervical cancer deaths. Cervical cancer is an abnormal tissue growth in the cells of a woman’s cervix and most cases are caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which is preventable by taking the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer develops very slowly over the course of many years. If the changes in the cervical cells are found in the early stages, it can be diagnosed and treated. If not, the cancer cells will spread to other parts of the body and it will become deadly.
You might be at higher risk for cervical cancer, if you:
- Started having sex before age 16 or within a year of starting your period
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Take birth control pills, especially for more than five years
- Weak immune system
- Have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
There are a few ways to reduce the risk of cervical cancer and we can do our part by getting regular health checkups, especially between the ages of 30 and 39 as statistics inform that women of these ages account for the majority of cervical-cancer related deaths in India.
What to do to prevent or treat it
- 21–29 years old, get a pap test once every 3 years.
- 30-65 years old, get a pap or HPV test once every 3 years.
- Older than 65 years old, you may not need pap tests anymore.
There is also another myth that if you have HPV, you will get cervical cancer. That’s not true. Usually, HPV clears up from our immune system by itself. In a small number of women, the virus stays in the body and over time causes cervical cancer, says Dr KL Poornima. “You can safely take the HPV vaccine until the age of 26. You can speak to your doctor about the vaccine, as it’s administered on a case by case basis.”
– Dr KL Poornima, MBBS, DGO, DNB (Obstetrics & Gynecology), Ankura Hospitals for Women and Children, Hyderabad