Fight off Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer, a predominant disease in poorer socio-economic societies like India is extending its fang on Indian Women. Dr.V. Shanta, the Ramson Magsaysay award winner opines that the cancer affects the lower socio-economic strata of women primarily due to the 'lack of genital hygiene' and secondarily due to the 'strong element of neglect where women's health is concerned'. She adds, 'Whether it is money or time, the family takes priority, and women's own needs are pushed to the background. I would call it self-immolation of women [italicization added] for the sake of their families. Naturally, when they approach a doctor or a hospital for a health problem, it is usually too late. This accounts for the high incidence of cervical cancer in Indian women'.

The National Cancer Institute defines Cervical Cancer as 'Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope)'. According to them the symptoms, preventive measures and treatment of Cervical Cancer are as follows:

Early cervical cancers usually don't cause symptoms but when the cancer grows larger, women may notice one or more of these symptoms:

1) Abnormal vaginal bleeding

* Bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods
* Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam
* Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before
* Bleeding after going through menopause

2) Increased vaginal discharge
* Pelvic pain
* Pain during sex

Doctors recommend that women help reduce their risk of cervical cancer by having regular Pap tests. A Pap test (sometimes called Pap smear or cervical smear) is a simple test used to look at cervical cells. Pap tests can find cervical cancer or abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer. Finding and treating abnormal cells can prevent most cervical cancer. Also, the Pap test can help find cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be effective.

 For most women, the Pap test is not painful. It's done in a doctor's office or clinic during a pelvic exam. The doctor or nurse scrapes a sample of cells from the cervix. A lab checks the cells under a microscope for cell changes. Most often, abnormal cells found by a Pap test are not cancerous. The same sample of cells may be tested for HPV infection.


 (A member of a family of viruses that can cause abnormal tissue growth (for example, genital warts) and other changes to cells. Infection with certain types of HPV increases the risk of developing cervical cancer. Also called human papillomavirus.) Dr.V.Shanta suggests that in India, 'every married woman with more than two children must do a screening once a year. Abroad, we would put it as any woman with sexual experience. If for three successive years, the screening is negative, then the next test can be deferred. The importance of education and awareness cannot be over-stressed here'.

Courtesy: National Cancer Institute & Ambujam Anantharaman of India Together.

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