Cervical Cancer: A disease preventable with a vaccine

Human Papilloma Virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection. This virus infects epithelial cell of the skin & mucous membranes of 80% of young men & women who are less than 30 years.

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Dr. Sharda Jain
Secretary General, Delhi Gynaecologist Forum and Chairman, WOW India

With the rapid usage of advanced technology to ramp up research and development in the healthcare space, there has been a considerable increase in the availability and accessibility of improved and newer medicines and vaccines globally. Although it’s a known fact that cervical cancer is the only preventable form of cancer, still the awareness levels of the disease and its prevention are very low.

Human Papilloma Virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection. This virus infects epithelial cell of the skin & mucous membranes of 80% of young men & women who are less than 30 years. They have been linked to cervical lesions including pre-cancers lesion, cervical cancer, genital warts, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, squamous cell carcinomas of the anus, vulva vagina, penis etc. Approximately 200 types of HPV are known and the high-risk subtypes of HPV are responsible for these cancers. As per the 2013 data on Cervical Cancer Disease Burden in India, we contribute to 23% of new Cervical Cancer cases and 25% of deaths due to Cervical Cancer in the world.

The high risk subtypes of HPV are responsible for causing cervical cancer. Thus, arising the need for a multivalent HPV vaccine for broader HPV protection. Vaccination provides a higher AB (antibody) response. Hence, higher AB level at cervical epithelium prevents HPV infection. With a population of 430.20 million, there is a greater need for building awareness about the disease segment and its timely prevention in women aged 15 years & older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Current estimates indicate that every year 1, 34,420 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 72,825 dies from the disease. Cervical cancer is the number one cause of death of women in India. Every 7 minutes, 1 woman succumbs to this deadly disease making it the second most frequent cancer amongst women between 15 & 44 years of age.

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix – the entrance to the womb. This disease usually shows no symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. A little awareness about the disease and its prevention through regular screening and HPV vaccination play a major role in helping one prevent or reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Vaccination along with cervical cancer screening offers the best possible protection againstcervical cancer. Screening tests such as Pap smear, HPV CO can detect early HPV infection that causes cervical cancer & precancerous lesions. However, they are not a prerequisite for taking an HPV vaccination.

As per 2013 data, the average coverage of cervical cancer screening in India has been 2.6% in women between 18 to 70 years age group. Despite cervical cancer being totally preventable, most women in India are unaware of the need for visiting a gynecologist for its prevention through screening and vaccination. Although it is an uphill task to increase these statistics, gynecologists must attempt to convince their patients to get the screening whenever they visit their clinic & educate them about the importance of HPV vaccination in adolescent girls & women in the postpartum period.

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