Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Get Screened, Be Vaccinated

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Get Screened, Be Vaccinated

affects the cervix, which is the
tube-like structure that connects the vagina with the uterus in the female
genital tract. Since there is no specific treatment for cervical cancer, stress
is given on preventive strategies.

are very common
and most sexually active women become infected sometime in their lifetimes.
Most HPV infections, such as those that cause

are harmless and are cleared naturally
by the body. However, some types of HPV can cause changes in the cells and
tissues lining the cervix. If these changes are not detected early, it can lead
to cervical cancer. Besides cervical cancer, HPV can also cause

penis, vagina, vulva, and oral cavity.

There are over 100
types of HPV, of which around 30 cause cancer. Of these, HPV 16 and 18 pose the
highest risk and are responsible for over 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Other high-risk types include 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. On the other hand, HPV 6
and 11 rarely cause cancer, but are responsible for over 90 percent of cases of
genital warts.

& Cervical Cancer: Facts & Figures

  • HPV
    infections occur in 45 percent of men between 18-59 years of age
  • HPV
    infections occur in 40 percent of women between 18-59 years of age
  • 570,000
    new cervical cancer cases occur annually worldwide
  • 311,000
    deaths from cervical cancer occur annually worldwide
  • 80
    percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low-income countries
  • 90
    percent of cervical cancer deaths occur in low-income countries
  • In India,
    cervical cancer is responsible for 6-29 percent of all cancers in women
  • In India,
    the incidence of cervical cancer is 5-23 per 100,000 women
  • 90
    percent of HPV cancers can be prevented by vaccination

for Prevention of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer
can be prevented by vaccination and
early detection by screening for HPV infections.

Vaccination: HPV vaccines protect against cervical cancer
and genital warts, as well as other types of genital cancers. These vaccines
are highlighted below:

  • Types of
    HPV Vaccines:
    There are two HPV
    that are
    currently available. One is Gardasil®which is a 9-valent vaccine,
    manufactured by Merck. The other is Cervarix®which is a
    bivalent vaccine, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Both these
    vaccines are produced by recombinant DNA technology, popularly known as
    genetic engineering
  • Dosage
    of Vaccine:
    Both vaccines require 3 doses to generate a robust immune response
    that confers full protection against HPV
  • Age of
    It is recommended that both boys and girls between the ages of 11
    and 14 years should be vaccinated, while adult women can be vaccinated
    till the age of 45 years
  • Protective
    Gardasil® protects against 9 types of high-risk
    HPV, namely, 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, while Cervarix® protects
    against 2 HPV types, namely, 16, and 18. All these HPV types pose the
    highest risk of developing cervical cancer. Both vaccines are highly
    effective and confer almost 100 percent protection against cervical cancer

Screening: This is carried out to detect cervical cancer
at an early stage. Screening for cervical cancer is recommended for all
sexually active women above the age of 30 years. The following two screening
tests are generally used:

  • Pap Smear Test: This test is
    named after Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou, MD, the famous Greek
    physician-scientist who was a pioneering cytopathologist specializing in
    early cancer detection and the inventor of the Pap smear test. This
    technique uses cells obtained for the inner lining of the cervix and
    observed under the microscope to detect any pathological changes
  • HPV
    This test directly detects the virus instead
    of looking for abnormal cellular changes, as is done in the Pap smear
    test. This test accurately pin-points the HPV types present in infected
    cervical cell samples

Ways to Observe Cervical Cancer Awareness

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month can be observed in various
ways, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Popular
    Renowned gynecologic oncologists could give popular lectures to
    enlighten women about the dangers of cervical cancer and how it can be
  • Print &
    Electronic Media:
    Both these media should highlight the importance of
    vaccination and regular screening for preventing cervical cancer to
    generate awareness among the general public
  • Social
    Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
    can be used to post news items, patient’s stories, infographics and other material to
    spread the message about cervical health
  • Community
    Community events can be organized to raise awareness about
    cervical health among women by distributing pamphlets and leaflets
    containing useful information on cervical cancer
  • Fundraising
    Fundraisers, including sponsored walkathons, marathons,
    cycling, and other sporting events could be organized to raise money for
    the care of cervical cancer patients
  • Screening
    Hospitals and clinics could provide free cervical cancer screening
    to women at high risk of developing cervical cancer. This will educate
    them and encourage them to get tested regularly
  • Wearing Teal
    & White:
    The teal and white ribbon designates cervical cancer
    awareness. So, by wearing this ribbon or other items made of teal and
    white, such as caps, bracelets, lapel pins, and other trinkets will show
    support for women suffering from cervical cancer

Health Tips for Preventing HPV

The following tips
will help to stop HPV transmission and thereby prevent cervical cancer:

  • Undergoing Pap smear and HPV tests regularly to
    screen for HPV infections
  • Vaccinating teenagers and adult women up to 45
    years with the HPV vaccines
  • Avoiding multiple sexual partners
  • Using barrier methods such as condoms and
    microbicidal gels during sexual intercourse
  • Quitting smoking
  • Creating awareness about HPV
    among parents of school-goers
  • Encouraging doctors to provide Pap smear testing at
    a reduced cost

References :

  1. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month – (https://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/january-15-2019/)
  2. Cancer Prevention in Practice – (https://www.nfid.org/2019/01/17/cancer-prevention-in-practice/)
  3. January 2020: Cervical Health Awareness Month – (https://www.immunizepa.org/january-2020-cervical-health-awareness-month/)
  4. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month – (https://www.cinj.org/sites/cinj/files/documents/January%20Cervical%20Health%20Awareness%20Month%202019.pdf)

Source: Medindia


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