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Urban Women Face Cancer Threat

Times of India
26 May 2010
Pune, India

Urban women face cancer threat
The prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a cause for cervical cancer, is common not just among rural women but their urban counterparts as well.

This observation was made in the six–month study carried out by 285 gynaecologists in 33 cities of the country under the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India (FOGSI) recently. As per the study, 16.8 per cent of total 2,693 married woman surveyed were found positive for pre–cancerous cervical cancer and its suspicious lesions from HPV infection.

“Approximately 2,693 urban Indian females (married and sexually active) from 33 cities and in the age group of 18 and 45 years, were enrolled for the study, which was conducted from July 2009 to December 2009. The aim of the study was to assess HPV serotype prevalence in Indian women from various socio–economic classes in city areas,” said gynaecologist Sanjay Gupte, president of FOGSI, in a press conference on Tuesday. The FOGSI is the largest professional body with 25,000 gynaecologists as its members.

A total 16.8 per cent of samples were found to be positive for precancerous cervical cancer. Healthy women aged 18 to 45 years who attended the clinics were counselled to participate in the study. Women with prior HPV vaccination, pregnant women, females who had undergone treatment for cervical cancer in the past or who had undergone hysterectomy or females with active discharge, were excluded from the study.

The study was done as a part of ‘Reaching the Unreached’ programme of the FOGSI. “The concept arose out of the realisation that cervical cancer screening coverage is poor. Physician are unable to perform screening tests due to lack of resources. Indian women do not ask for screening tests because of lack of knowledge. It was felt that people need to be told that cervical cancer is preventable, detectable at an early stage and curable if treated promptly,” said Gupte.

Despite availability of various methods, cervical cancer screening coverage in India is uniformly low at 2.6 per cent for women aged 18–69 years, added Gupte.

“This year with our Gupte’s initiative, we sent pap smears from all over the country which provided us results of a pilot screening programme. In this project while training the gynaecologists, we realised that so many of them did not know the method of taking, fixing and transporting pap smears. This is a very simple method as doctors have not done it before, they find it new and difficult,” said gynaecologist Radhika Joshi, who trained the doctors for carrying out the pap smear, a screening test used in HPV infection.

State should screen HPV infection cases in rural hospitals: Gupte
In a meeting with the principal secretary of the state Jayant Kumar Banthia, Sanjay Gupte, president of Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India, asked the state to launch such screening and treatment procedure in rural hospitals to bring down cases of cervical cancer.

The president has proposed the state government to initiate visual inspection with ascetic acid (VIA) test at peripheral government medical care centres like primary health centres (PHC), sub–centres for detection of HPV infection among woman from rural areas of Maharashtra. “The test is very effective and very affordable. The expenses involved for VIA screening is less. Besides, offering treatment for treating HPV infection by installing cryomachines at government health care centres has also been recommended by FOGSI,” said Gupte.

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