“Indian women are at a high risk of developing cervical cancer. Of the total 10 women who die of the disease every hour in Southeast Asia, eight are from India. Cervical cancer has become the most common cancer among women in India with 1 lakh new cases reported every year,” said Dr Seema Wadhwa, Consultant, Gynecology, Fortis Hospital.
Addressing a seminar on `Cervical cancer and other gynecological problems”, Dr Wadhwa said: “Cervical cancer is potentially curable if detected early due to its long pre-cancer state that may extend from 7-10 years. It is the best example of cancer prevention. Also, the abnormal cells shed from the cervix can be easily picked up during the screening by a pap smear test.”
Explaining the risk factors, she said the chances of getting cervical cancer increase in case of multiple sexual partners, promiscuous partner, early age of first coital experience, early child bearing, prior history of sexually transmitted diseases, long term usage of oral contraceptives, cigarette smoking, immunodeficiency and most importantly viral infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). Talking about the symptoms, she said: “A woman should seek medical guidance in case of abnormal vaginal bleeding, bleeding after menopause, bleeding following coitus or pelvic examination or increased vaginal discharge. The diagnosis is confirmed by a biopsy.”
Advising the women to get themselves regularly screened for cancer, the expert said: “Pap smear is the single most effective cancer screening test. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening annually for all women under the age of 30 starting from 18 years or when the girl becomes sexually active. Over the age of 30, one can space the screening to every two to three years if the last three tests have been negative and some other conditions are met. The peak age of developing cervical cancer is 40-50 years,” Dr Wadhwa added.