Cervical Cancer Awareness: January is called Cervical Cancer Awareness Month as it helps in creating awareness about the disease, possible ways of getting it and early stages of its diagnosis. Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Common symptoms of cervical cancer are bleeding between periods and after intercourse. Lower abdominal pain and lower back pain can also indicate cervical cancer. However, in some people, cervical cancer may cause no symptoms at all. Early stages. As we mark January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding it, and debunk them:
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Monisha Gupta, Senior Consultant, Gyane Oncology, Forts Shalimar Bagh helped us. Dispel some myths.:
short story: There is no clear cause of cervical cancer.
Reality: We have a very well-known cause of cervical cancer and that is human papillomavirus, HPV infection.
short story: HPV only affects people with multiple sex partners or people with unprotected sex.
Reality: HPV infection occurs in all partners of men and women who are sexually active. About 80% of men and women are infected with HPV at any given time. Sexual transmission of HPV infection occurs normally between men and women.
short story: Cervical cancer is hereditary.
Reality: no. Cervical cancer is not hereditary like breast and ovarian cancer.
short story: Having an HPV infection means I will get cervical cancer.
Reality: No, there are more than 100 types of HPV virus, but only 9-10 types cause cancer. Additionally, most HPV infections are cleared from our bodies within 2 years by our immune system.
short story: A screening test is not needed if there are no symptoms.
Reality: Cervical cancer does not cause any symptoms in the early stages in the majority of women. And when symptoms appear, it’s usually stage II/III. Hence, it is very important to go for regular screening tests for early detection.
short story: Cervical cancer screening should be done every year.
Reality: The ideal protocol for cervical cancer screening is a 3-yearly Pap smear test in women under 30 years of age and a 5-yearly Pap + HPV testing in women over 30 years of age up to 65 years of age.
short story: Why should one go for HPV vaccination?
Reality: Since cervical cancer is caused by a viral infection, it can be prevented by vaccination like polio, typhoid and other diseases.
Dr Tejandar Kataria, Chairperson Radiation Oncology and Cancer Centre, Medanta – The Medicity further helps debunk a few more myths related to cervical cancer:
short story: Cervical cancer is contagious.
Reality: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection of the genital area and can be transmitted through sexual contact.
short story: HPV infection cannot be eradicated
Reality: HPV infection can occur once in the lifetime of sexually active women and a large proportion of women clear the infection from their system over time with the help of a healthy immune system.
short story: Cervical cancer is fatal.
Reality: Women with stage 0-1A cervical cancer are curable in 93-95% of cases. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the cure rate.
short story: A positive test for HPV means cancer will occur.
Reality: Most women with a good immune system will clear an HPV infection, so an HPV infection does not necessarily mean that cancer will occur.
short story: The Pap smear test can rule out all cancers in women.
Reality: The PAP smear test is only diagnostic for cervical cancer and does not rule out breast, ovarian or uterine cancer.
short story: HPV infection occurs only in girls.
Reality: HPV infection can occur in both men and women. In men it can appear as genital warts or can also lead to the development of anal/oro-pharyngeal cancer.