Cervical Cancer is a form of cancer that affects the cells of the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is the fourth most common cancer in women globally, accounting for 570,000 new cases and 311,000 deaths in 2018. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection. While the number of incidences of cervical cancer has reduced in more developed nations due to widespread screening and vaccination programs, it remains a significant public health issue in lower-income countries where access to these interventions is limited.

The primary risk factor for cervical cancer is infection with HPV, which is spread through sexual contact. While many strains of HPV are harmless, some types can lead to abnormal cellular growth and eventually become cancerous. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, a weakened immune system, long-term use of oral contraceptives and a family history of the illness.

In its early stages, cervical cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms, which is why regular screening is so important. The Pap test is the most common method of cervical cancer screening, which involves collecting cells from the cervix to examine for any abnormalities. If abnormal cells are detected, further testing may be required to determine if cancer is present.

In more advanced stages, symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse and unusual vaginal discharge. If any of these symptoms are present, women should consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Treatment options for cervical cancer depend on the stage and severity of the disease. In early stages, surgery can be used to remove the cancerous cells or the entire uterus if necessary. Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells, may also be used to target the affected area. In more advanced cases, where the cancer becomes malignant, chemotherapy may also be used to destroy cancer cells throughout the body.

The good news is that there are several measures that can be taken to prevent cervical cancer, the most effective of which being the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls aged 11-12, but can also be given up to age 26 for those who have not been previously vaccinated. Other ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease include usage of condoms during sexual activity, and limiting the number of sexual partners.

In conclusion, cervical cancer is a serious ailment that can be prevented and treated via early detection and proper medical care. Women should make it a priority to schedule regular Pap tests and follow-ups should there be any abnormal results. The HPV vaccine is perhaps the most effective preventive measure for both males and females. Efforts to improve access to cervical cancer screening and treatment are crucial to reducing the burden of this disease, especially in underprivileged populations. By enforcing these measures, we can work towards a future where cervical cancer is no longer a leading cause of death among women.

Article Credits
Dr. Bindu PS, Gynecologist & Fertility Specialist, CareMithra
Rohan Panicker, Creative Writer, CareMithra