Cervical cancer is voraciously eating women of reproductive age. The third most common kind of cancer claims almost half a million women worldwide. This disease is more prevalent in developing countries and accounts for 80% of global mortality across the world.
Out of a group of human papilloma viruses (HPV), a few varieties have been categorized under high risk- human papilloma viruses (HPV). These varieties have been proved to be the causative agents of cervical cancer. This malignant neoplasm (tumor) starts at the cervix and opens at the top of the vagina.
Common symptoms associated with this disease are abnormal bleeding from the vagina, pelvic pain and back pain. Precancerous stage or the early stage of this disease is usually asymptomatic. This disease takes time to intensify into cancerous condition.
A number of risk factors have been associated with this disease out of which few factors can be controlled by us. A list of such factors is as follows-
- Smoking– It has been proved that both active and passive smoking increase the risk of cervical cancer. The carcinogenic byproducts of tobacco have been found in the cervical mucus of the actively smoking women. These substances can damage the DNA of the cervical cells. Keeping the ill effects of smoking in view it is suggested to stop it.
- Oral contraceptives– Use of oral contraceptives for more than five years is related with increase in the risk of cervical cancer. The mechanism of action of contraceptives is not clear but it is hypothesized that hormone-related mechanisms promotes the integration of HPV DNA into the host genome. This in turn promotes the transition from premalignant to malignant state. As an alternative to contraceptives it is advisable to use condoms.
- High Parity– Sex at a very early age and a higher rate of full term pregnancies is closely associated with this disease. A higher rate of pregnancy maintains the transformation zone on the exocervix for many years. This in turn facilitates the direct exposure to HPV and other cofactors. Sex education to adolescent girls will be helpful to eradicate this problem.
- Weakened Immune System– Food rich in vital nutrients boosts up our immune system. Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help us to fight against many diseases including cervical cancer.
- Safe Sex– A women having multiple sexual partners or whose sexual partner participates in high risk sexual activities can easily succumb to this disease. Sex education can be a solution to this problem also.
Detection / Preventive Measures
Use of vaccination and Pap smears (Papanicolaou test)
- Vaccinations – Scientists across the world are struggling hard to synthesize a vaccine which can fight this deadly disease. They have achieved success to some extent as the vaccines are capable of fighting against only few strains of HPV. Moreover the identification of target group for administration of vaccine involves some ethical issues. Very young pre-pubertal girls who had no previous sexual exposure are the right target for vaccination. Hence vaccination does not assure a complete eradication of cervical cancer.
- Pap smears- Cells scrapped from the tip of the cervix are observed under microscope to detect the cancerous or precancerous condition of the cervix. It is advisable to have this test done after the age of 21 at every 2 years of intervals. This test detects the disease in very initial stage making its cure easier. Awareness about this test and making it available at a cheaper price is a favorable step towards control of cervical cancer in developing countries.
- Apart from these preventive measures steps to control risk factors and general maintenance of health and hygiene is also recommended to control this disease.
Vaccines are being promoted by the doctors and pharmaceutical companies. But many facts are not being communicated to the common man. Vaccine alone is like a half equipped, single man army fighting against a deadly disease like cervical cancer. Awareness about all the angles of this disease is very essential as getting Pap smears done and leading a healthy sexual life are also equally essential.