Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, as per WHO (World Health Organization) reports. The figures themselves make it concerning enough to be aware of and adopt necessary preventive measures to safeguard community health and lifestyle.
Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells and when this abnormal growth occurs in the cervix it is termed as cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower part of the womb that opens into the birth canal.
The bulk of the cases occur due to an infection from a group of viruses known as Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV). Vastly, the cases are recorded for the age group above 30 and the virus is believed to pass on during sexual contact.
One might speculate on the probable symptoms at this juncture. However, there are no symptoms at the early stages of the disease.
There can be abnormal bleeding from the birth canal (vagina); for instance, bleeding between periods or post-menopausal bleeding in the latter stages when the disease has advanced.
Without a peck of doubt, so far researches are indicative of adopting preventive and screening methods when it comes to cancer. And, preventing and controlling cervical cancer too follows this norm. The earlier the detection, the better the chances of a successful treatment.
Having said this, vaccines play a crucial part in preventing cervical cancer from various strains of HPV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the HPV vaccine be given to girls and boys between ages 11 and 12. They should get two doses of the HPV vaccine, given 6 to 12 months apart. It can be given as early as age 9. It is recommended for boys to reduce any possible chances of viral transmission. The earlier the administration of the vaccine, the greater the protection from the viruses.
Speaking of vaccine raises the most hyped question in one’s head and that is about its safety and possible adverse effects. So far, the vaccine has been found safe and effective after thorough monitoring by researchers for more than a decade. It can also produce the usual side effects like redness, pain on the injected site; headache or nausea.
For screening purposes, HPV tests and Pap tests (Pap smear) are in common practice. HPV test aims to look for the presence of HPV in the cervix while the Pap test targets to rule out any developing precancer changes in the cervical canal.
Vaccines bear no role if the person has been infected with HPV, so management is shifted to putting treatment methods in practice. For cervical precancer, cryotherapy, and thermal ablation are recommended.
For confirmed cases of cervical cancer, an individual approach is designed based on the spread of the disease, and accordingly, staging is done. Subsequently, radiotherapy, cryotherapy, or surgery is performed along with palliative care.