In India, Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in India. In fact, as many as 25% of global cervical cancer deaths are reported in India. The leading cause of this is a lack of effective screening and timely access to treatment.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer and is transferred from one person to another during intercourse. It can cause many types of cancers, including cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. Women above the age of 20 years are at risk and those in their 20s and mid-30s are the most vulnerable. January is deemed as cervical health awareness month and, at Onsurity, we have decided to do our bit to spread the necessary awareness around cervical health. Let’s look at some of the most important cervical health facts.
All sexually active individuals are at the risk of getting infected by HPV at some point in their life. However, this type of cancer develops at a slow pace and can take from a few years up to a decade to turn into an “identifiable problem” without medical screening. Below are some of the factors that make women more susceptible to this form of cancer.
Long and diverse sexual history
Being sexually active at a young age, especially Also, people with multiple partners increase their sexual trail and, hence, could become vulnerable to the virus.
Oral contraceptive consumption
Consumption of oral contraceptives affects female hormones, which means the natural levels of estrogen and progesterone are altered. Synthetic hormonal supplements may change the susceptibility of cervical cells to HPV infection. The risk of cervical cancer increases by 10% in less than 5 years of use and 60% in 5 to 9 years of use. However, the risk begins to decline as soon as consumption is stopped.
Women with a history of multiple full-term pregnancies also have been found to have elevated risk of cancer according to the National Cancer Institute (US), though the reason is yet to be found. However, the drug Diethylstilboestrol (DES) has been identified as an independent risk factor for a type of cervical cancer. Daughters of women who are administered the drug to prevent a miscarriage, particularly, have an increased risk of cervical cell abnormalities and clear cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina and cervix, a type of cervical cancer.
Women who give birth in their teenage years also are at a high risk of developing cervical cancer in later years.
Weak immune system
Autoimmune diseases and HIV weaken a victim’s immunity. As HPV infections are persistent and gradually develops into cancer, Immunecompromised individuals are at a greater risk of cervical cancer. Chlamydia is a type of bacteria that may infect the reproductive system. Although the patient does not exhibit any symptoms, it may help the human papillomavirus grow in the cervix as it could get transmitted via sexual contact.
Smoking has a devastating effect on the sexual health of any individual. Although about 40% individuals between the age group of 15 to 59 years may have an HPV infection at some point, the possibility of it developing into cancer is multiplied by smoking or even passive smoke. Consumption of too much alcohol and drugs can have an adverse impact on the immune system.
Here’s how you can prevent Cervical cancer
Simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of HPV infection considerably.
Women who smoke are twice as likely to get diagnosed with cervical cancer. Tobacco products in the cervical mucus gives HPV a breeding ground, weakening their potential to prevent the growth of cancer cells. The first thing you should do is consciously quit smoking.
Practise sexual hygiene
Adopting birth control methods such as condoms and/or dental dams and intra-uterine devices (IUD) eliminates the requirement of oral contraceptives. IUDs have been found to lower the risk of HPV , . Additionally, condoms also can be used to help prevent the sexual transfer of such an infection. Maintaining cleanliness during intercourse is beneficial not only for sexual wellness but also in the prevention of HPV . Avoid douching or cleaning the vagina with water or vaginal care products after intercourse as this could increases risks as against what is promised by commercials., unlike what commercials tell us.
Get yourself vaccinated
The best time to get vaccinated is between the age of 9-13 or before hitting puberty. The World Health Organisation recommends getting an HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active. Vaccine also is equally effective if you have not yet contracted the cancer-causing virus. It’s time you get that HPV vaccine scheduled! Anyone with a cervix and between the age of 9 to 45 years is eligible for the vaccination.
The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over months. If the vaccination period is interrupted, there is no need to repeat it. The vaccination may have short-term side effects like fever, nausea, and swelling at the sight of the shot but there is nothing to worry about.
Team-up with your gynecologist
Discuss your doubts and concerns about HPV and cervical cancer with your gynecologist. Sexually inactive women between 21 to 65 years of age must get PAP-smear or a pelvic examination done every 3 years as you age and become sexually active the frequency should be increased. Monitoring your sexual health, libido, and mood swings can also help you in identifying abnormalities.
Symptoms to watch out for
At the start, women may see warts or lumps in the vulva area. At this time, the infection may appear to be superficial or just a skin abnormality. Yet, getting it tested is essential to eliminate the possibility of cancer. Some more visible symptoms include:
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding
- Mid-cycle blood spots or light bleeding
- Bleeding after menopause
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Painful sexual intercourse
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1. Cervical cancer in India: challenges and opportunities
2. Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer