By Mr Amol Naikawadi, Preventive Healthcare Specialist, Indus Health Plus
* Pap smear screening of 2203 females revealed that 28% had an abnormal report
All women have a risk of developing cervical cancer, a type of cancer that tends to occur in the cells of the cervix (which is the lower part of the uterus that connects the vagina). The condition, however, occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Most of the cases can be linked to Human Papilloma virus and various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cervical cancer. One may exhibit symptoms like a bloody vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain during intercourse when cancer strikes.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Opting for routine Pap tests, getting vaccinated, practicing safer sex, and making healthy lifestyle choices such as cutting down on smoking can help prevent cervical cancer. According to the research published in the journal Lancet Global Health, India recorded the highest estimated number of cervical cancer deaths in 2018. This is very alarming and hence, the need of the hour is to tackle cervical cancer at the earliest.
Below are a few preventive measures that can help women to keep cervical cancer away and improve their quality of life.
Quit smoking: It is a much-known fact that smoking is very injurious to health. Smoking can not only cause respiratory issues, but it can also lead to cervical cancer. Yes, it raises your chances of suffering from cervical cancer. According to various studies, tobacco by-products tend to damage one’s DNA of cervix cells and in turn, invite cervical cancer. Thus, it is essential to opt for a smoking cessation therapy and quit it as soon as possible.
Regular Screening: Pap smear is a basic screening test to detect abnormalities of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, in females especially the presence of cancer or precancerous cells. Pap smear screening of 2203 females revealed that 28% had an abnormal report (as per Indus Health Plus data) that could again range from mild inflammation to serious conditions like cervical cancer. The maximum number of abnormalities were noted in the age group of 41 – 50 years which is the peri menopausal period in females leading to a lot of hormonal changes which could trigger a variety of changes in the female reproductive system .Any abnormality detected in a Pap smear test should be brought to the notice of a gynecologist and early detection can prevent complications and increase the chances of cure. Hence a routine Pap smear screening is recommended in all adult females as it has emerged as a very effective screening test for women wellness.
Practicing safe sex is essential: Various studies have shown that women who have multiple sexual partners are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. So, try to adhere to safe sex methods while having intercourse. Also, bleeding between intercourse should be thoroughly evaluated.
Vaccination: There is a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV that may cause cervical cancer. You must discuss with your doctor about these vaccines. Your doctor will help you to understand when you are eligible for it. He/she will set a proper schedule and may brief you about the age, and the duration in which you need to get vaccinated.
Lifestyle modifications: Keeping your weight in check and not ignoring symptoms like abnormal or watery vaginal discharge and opting for a well-balanced diet can also be helpful. Try to include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and do not forget to follow-up on abnormal Pap smears.
Likewise, more awareness should be created about this life-threatening cancer. Women should be educated and informed about cervical cancer as doing so can help women deal with it in a better way. Moreover, cervical cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, but it is preventable and treatable.