What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer is cancer of the "Cervix", also known as the "mouth of the uterus".
In India, it is the 2nd most common cancer in women. This cancer is usually diagnosed too late, in often incurable stages because it shows no symptoms till its too late.
The silent killer.
Did you know? In India …
- About 122,844 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually in India
- Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most common cause of female cancer in India
- About 67,477 new cervical cancer deaths occur annually in India
- Cervical cancer kills One Women/8 Minutes & is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women in India
How come you don't hear of it?
Because no one likes to talk about it. It is embarrassing,painful and commonly misunderstood. Which is why we need to arm ourselves with the knowledge. It is the first step in learning how to protect yourself and the women you care for.
How does one get Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by a highly contagious virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) when it infects the cervix. The virus is very common and is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact of the genital area. In fact, it has been shown that this viral infection is so common that 80% of all women would have had this infection at least once in their lifetimes by the time they are 50 years old. This is irrespective of race, personal hygiene,diet, education level, personal habits etc. Cervical Cancer is not hereditary.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Causes:
Who is likely to get Cervical Cancer?
Every normal, sexually active woman is at risk for cervical cancer. It affects women at the prime of their lives when they are indispensable for their families.
The risk for HPV infection that eventually leads to cervical cancer begins in adolescence and continues into adulthood. But even though it is the woman who gets cervical cancer, the disease affects her whole family if she loses her health or in many cases, her life. Imagine losing a mom, wife,sister in the prime of her life……...
Can Cervical Cancer be prevented?
Now it can!
The only way to prevent Cervical Cancer before it can even happen is to get vaccinated.
How does the vaccine work?
Vaccination works by getting your body to produce antibodies against the HPV virus.
These antibodies protect your body from an HPV infection by fighting the virus when it tries to attack the cervix. Since HPV infection is the only cause of Cervical Cancer,vaccination against the virus protects against Cervical Cancer.
Who should take the vaccine and when?
Ideally, the vaccine should be taken as early as possible after the age of 9 years but girls and women of any age up to 45 can benefit from this vaccine. Expectant mothers should not take the vaccine during their pregnancy. Talk to a doctor for advice.
What is vaccine and how is the dose schedule?
There are two vaccines one is HPV2 (16,18 ) and HPV4 (6,11,16,18 ).
HP4 (6,11,16,18 ) prevent Cervical ,Vulvar and Vaginal Cancer and Ano-Genital Warts. HPV4 vaccine is safe during lactation.
Vaccine is given in three doses as follows: 2 months and 6 months.(0,2,6 month).
In special cases (ex: impending marriage or travel, planning a pregnancy soon etc.), the doctor can "abbreviate" the schedule to 0,1and 4 months.
How soon will the protection work?
The full protection comes into effect usually within a month of the last dose. This varies from individual to individual, depending on their own body's immune system. It is important to complete the schedule.
How long will the protection last?
This is not a relatively new vaccine and has been around for general use since 2006 and is now used in 135 countries and 178 Million doses administered world wide. It has been tested for a lot longer through clinical trials world wide. So far the data has shown that vaccinated women have been significantly protected from the disease since they got the vaccine ( 10 yrs according to published data).
The WHO, CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and various organizations do not recommend booster dose . There is a good life-long protection as well. The WHO has recommended to governments and the Immunization Committee of the IAP has in the meanwhile recommended to individuals – If you can afford it, take it.
What about side effects?
The vaccine has been studied and is generally safe and well tolerated. Like many vaccines, pain at the site of the injection is not uncommon. Talk to a doctor for full details or any other questions on side effects. Cervical Cancer is a serious and life threatening disease.
Where can I get more information?
The best source of medical information is a qualified and well informed doctor,preferably a specialist. A Gynecologist (or a Pediatrician for your daughter older than 9 yrs) is the person you should talk to. Half knowledge, hearsay and articles / opinions by biased or inexpert opinion leaders can mislead you. Please consult a doctor.