Though considered to be on the decline, cervical cancer, the most common cancer in women after breast cancer, continues to take a heavy toll in the State, thanks to lack of awareness and social practices.
Majority of the women with cervical cancer are reporting to hospitals at advanced stage, leading to a very high fatality rate. The mean age of presentation of patients at the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre (AHRCC), here is more than 50 years against States like Kerala where the age is between 34 and 40, a hospital-based study has revealed.
As per the estimate, cervical cancer accounts for more than one third of women afflicted with other cancers. There are more than one lakh cervical cancer patients in the State at any given point of time. The State also ranks among those with highest fatality rate which is projected to be around 70 per cent.
The major cause of the high mortality rate is late detection due to lack of awareness among patients. The disease is mostly prevalent in the lower strata of the society where apart from illiteracy and ignorance, lack of hygiene is a major issue.
"We studied the records of 82 patients at AHRCC from January to June 2012 and analysed the data on different epidemiological factors. More than 70.73 per cent patients belonged to lower strata while 23.17 were from middle class and only 3.65 from upper sections," head of Oncopathology Department Prof Niranjan Rout, who led the study, said.
Cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Lack of hygiene aside, early marriage with resultant early sexual activity and child birth, unprotected sex, multiple partners, oral contraceptive use, STDs and tobacco abuse are high risk factors.
Among the study group, it was found that the average marriageable age was 16.81 years. Average age at first child birth was as low as 18.67 years.
Majority of the subjects were found to be using tobacco, mostly smokeless forms, thus establishing role of all the key risk factors in high incidence of cervical cancer in the State, Prof Rout explained.
Rout, who is also the convener of Cancer Cervix Eradication and Awareness initiative, said early detection was key to all interventions. The disease could be prevented by vaccination of young girls while educating the older women to recognise early signs and seek medical recourse.
Under the Ayurvigyan.com Foundation, he has launched a community-level awareness drive to sensitise the women from the lower socio-economic background on the disease and its prevention.
A function was held recently to mark the Cancer Cervix Eradication Day, which was inaugurated by noted Gynaecologist Prof Badal Mohanty.