Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women across the globe and in India. It occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix (lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina) grows out of control. Cervical cancer can be fully prevented however 'it cannot happen to me' attitude and at the same time insufficient or no knowledge about the same makes it more prevalent in India today.
To increase the awareness about cervical cancer, team Medimanage spoke to the Oncologist team at HCG and Dr. Bhavna Parikh, Medical Oncologist attached to Bombay Hospital, Holy Family Hospital and BNH-HCG center (Nanavati Hospital).
What is cervical cancer for a common man to understand?
Cervical cancer is a cancer found at the mouth of uterus. This cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. This cancer usually affects young women who are sexually active.
- What are the symptoms that a woman should be careful about?
The cervical cancer cell symptoms can be seen in the early days if you are careful and vigilant.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
a) Abnormal bleeding from vagina
b) Foul smelling discharge from vagina
- Why is cervical cancer caused? Who is at the risk of cervical cancer?
There are certain risk factors like poor hygiene, HPV infections, and multiple sexual partners.
Every woman who is sexually active is at risk of developing cervical cancer.
- How is cervical cancer detected?
Thorough gynecological examination, Pap smear and Ultrasound/CT scan can detect most of these cancers. Pap smear is a simple test which must be conducted by a Gynecologist. In simple terms, it just involves taking a swab from vagina for microscopic examination. It is painless and does not require hospitalization. It is a screening test to detect cervical cancer in early stage. It must be done every year in all young sexually active women. Remember! Cervical cancer is a disease of young women and Not old women.
- What are the different stages of cervical cancer and the complications possible at each stage?
There are four stages: stage I and II are the ones where the disease is restricted to the cervix/uterus in stage III and IV, parts surrounding the uterus and other parts like lungs, liver etc can be involved. As the diseases progresses, pain, bleeding, constipation, loss of appetite, breathlessness can set in.
- What are treatment that are used to reverse cervical cancer?
The treatment involves Surgery and Radiotherapy in early stages. In later stages, surgery is not possible hence, Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are advised.
- How can a patient cope with cervical cancer during and after the treatment?
During and after the treatment, the patient and her family need to accept the diagnosis, treatment and its complications. She must follow all the instructions given by her doctors. After completion of the treatment, regular follow- up is a must!
- Does cervical cancer affect fertility?
The patient definitely loses her fertility due to cervical cancer and subsequent treatment.
- What is the survival rates for women suffering from cervical cancer?
Early detection is the key to a complete cure from cervical cancer. For the patients in early stages and with optimum treatment, the cure rates are between 80 to 90% but for patients with late diagnosis, the cure rates drop down to 30 to 40%.
- Can you brief us about the cervical cancer vaccine that is available and who needs to be vaccinated?
Cervical cancer vaccine is ACTUALLY HPV vaccine. This vaccine protects a lady against a certain type of HPV infections. This reduces risk of cervical cancer but does NOT make it zero. This vaccine should be taken ideally before the first sexual exposure but young women up to the age of 30 years can also benefit out of this vaccine. A woman must go to a gynecologist for counseling and vaccination. She must continue doing Pap smears every year EVEN after taking the vaccine.
Cervical cancer can be prevented if you have regular check ups done and are alert about the symptoms.
Be alert and live healthy!!