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Home News and Update Year 2010 Cervical Cancer: A Preventable Death

Cervical Cancer: A Preventable Death

Times of India
27 March 2010

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Indian women. Each year nearly 1 32 000 women are diagnosed with this disease and over 74 000 women die of this disease
Dr. Amita Maheshwari, Consultant Gynecologic Oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital
Cervical Cancer: A Preventable Death
Cervical cancer (cancer of the mouth of the uterus) is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women after breast cancer globally. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Indian women. Each year nearly 1 32 000 women are diagnosed with this disease and over 74 000 women die of this disease. In other words one woman loses her life to cervical cancer in India every 7 minutes!

What is the cause of cervical cancer?
Recent research has shown that more than 99 per cent cervical cancer cases are caused by persistent infection with a virus known as human papilloma virus. More than 100 types of HPV are known. However, the two most important cancer-associated HPV types (high risk) are 16 and 18. Together, they are responsible for approximately 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

How does one get HPV infection?
HPV predominantly spreads through sexual contact. The virus can be transmitted from any part of genital area. Regular use of condoms, although protective, is not a foolproof method of preventing transmission.

What are the risk factors for Cervical Cancer?
The factors that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer include early onset of sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, partner’s sexual behavior, early age at first childbirth, multiple childbirths, poor personal hygiene, tobacco use, long term oral contraceptive pill use, diet poor in vitamins and essential nutrients, and immune-suppression e.g. HIV infection. Low socio-economic status and lack of access to health care play a major role in high incidence of cervical cancer in India and other developing countries.

Cervical Cancer: A Preventable Death
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Since the introduction of routine screening by Pap smears in western countries, the incidence of cervical cancer has fallen to a small fraction of its previous levels in those countries.

Strategies to prevent cervical cancer
Strategies include: marriage after the age 18, first pregnancy after 21 years and small family, monogamous relationship, consistent use of condom, good personal hygiene, healthy diet with adequate fruits and vegetables and avoidance of tobacco in any form. Male circumcision lowers the risks of genital HPV infection in men and thus, can be considered an important factor in prevention of cervical cancer.



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