Dr Uma Dangi, Consultant-Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund explains what is cervical cancer and the importance of timely screening.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
Abnormal vaginal spotting or bleeding or discharge
Bleeding from vagina in women who have achieved menopause requires urgent evaluation to rule out Cervical or Endometrial Cancer
Lower abdominal pain or pain and bleeding after sexual intercourse
In the presence of these symptoms, one must consult a doctor and get thoroughly evaluated to rule out cervical cancer.
The Importance of Pap smear Screening: This is the easiest gynaecological cancer to be prevented through screening and early vaccination. Screening is done using a test called ‘Pap smear’. In this test, cells are collected from the cervix and examined under the microscope for the presence of any abnormalities. Before Cervical Cancer develops, there are options to treat these abnormal cells. Pap smear is recommended for all sexually active women over the age of 30yrs, every three years, till the age of 65yrs, depending on the results.
Additionally, one can reduce the risk of Cervical Cancer by adopting safe sex practices, such as the use of condoms and timely treatment of infections of the reproductive tract. Vaccines targeting HPV are also currently available. However, these are not effective against all HPV types that cause Cancer; and vaccination is not a replacement for screening. Women who have not been exposed to HPV infection are likely to benefit more from the vaccine. Vaccination is given to girls between the ages of 9-14yrs; all parents with girls in this age group must speak to their doctor about the HPV vaccine for their child.
It is important to be aware of one’s risk of cancer and get screened for early detection, which helps protect you and prevent the cancer from developing.