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Cervical Cancer: What Women Need to Know

25% of all global deaths due to Cervical Cancer occur in India. The reason for this difference is the lack of effective screening and access to timely treatment.

Published: February 3, 2022 9:13 AM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Anjali Thakur

Cervical Cancer: What Women Need to Know
Representational Image (Picture credit: Pexels)

Cervical Cancer is the Cancer of the cervix which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is the second most recorded Cancer after Breast Cancer among Indian women and is a preventable disease. 25% of all global deaths due to Cervical Cancer occur in India. The reason for this difference is the lack of effective screening and access to timely treatment.

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Major Factors for Cervical Cancer are: 

  • Multiple sexual partners: Women who are exposed to multiple sexual partners have a high risk of developing Cervical Cancer because it increases the risk of getting Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) which takes several years to get diagnosed
  • Smoking: Women who smoke have twice the risk of developing Cervical Cancer than women who don’t. Regular exposure to carcinogenic agents causes a change in cells which may lead to Cervical Cancer or any other cancers
  • Socio-economic factors: Women who belong to a low socio-economic class tend to develop Cervical Cancer as they may not have access to healthcare services. Lack of education also affects the awareness of the disease and its symptoms
  • Early sexual activity: In young women, the cervix is more susceptible to infection. Having sex at a very early age can also cause Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer does not produce any symptoms in the pre-cancerous stage. In the early stages, it produces certain symptoms which can guide a woman to visit her doctor at the earliest.

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Following are the signs to look for:

  1. Blood spotting or light bleeding between two periods, or following regular periods
  2. Menstrual bleeding that is longer & heavier than usual
  3. Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination
  4. Excess or recurrent vaginal discharge
  5. Painful sexual intercourse
  6. Bleeding after menopause

If any of the above symptoms occur or are persistent, it is advisable to see the doctor. Sometimes problems other than Cancer can also produce similar symptoms, only a good check-up & further tests can help in confirming the diagnosis. If you have none of the above-mentioned symptoms but do have high-risk factors, then also regular visit to a doctor is of great value.

Steps to Prevent Cervical Cancer: 

  • Have routine Pap tests: Pap tests can detect pre-cancerous conditions of the Cervix, so they can be monitored or treated to prevent Cervical Cancer
  • Practice safe sex: Reduce your risk of Cervical Cancer by taking measures to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections, such as using a condom every time you have sex, and limiting the number of sexual partners you have
  • Do not smoke: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you quit
  • Ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine: Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your risk of Cervical Cancer and other HPV-related Cancers. The vaccine is ideally given before the first sexual contact for maximum protection (ideally between the age of 15-26yrs)

Cervical cancer does not only affect the body physically but also causes an emotional burden for women. It can be diagnosed and cured successfully only if diagnosed at an early stage. Above all, all women should talk to their doctors about Cervical Cancer and decide on an appropriate screening schedule at least once a year to avoid the risk of developing the disease.

(Inputs by Dr Manjiri Mehta, Consultant Gynecologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis network Hospital) 

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Published Date: February 3, 2022 9:13 AM IST