Cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most prevalent cause of cancer mortality and morbidity in women worldwide. Cervical cancer is silent at its early stage, but deadly when it’s diagnosed late.
It is mainly triggered and developed by persistent infection by high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted virus that is classified into high-risk and low-risk types. In particular, the most common aggressive type of virus, causing approximately 70% of cervical cancers [HPV 16 and 18]
In recent decades, the burden of HPV in cervical cancer has decreased because of the effective implementation of cervical screening and HPV vaccination programs and improvements in therapeutic strategies
However, cervical cancer mortality remains high in some regions of the world, particularly in developing countries, due to a lack of screening and vaccination programs.
Long-lasting (persistent) infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) causes virtually all cervical cancer(99.7%), anal cancers(90%), head and neck cancers (50%), vulval cancers(40%), vaginal and penile cancers.
The premalignancy of the uterine cervix is preventable and treatable if neoplasia is detected early as it is slow-growing cancer with long latent period. Hence “Screen-and-treat” is a commonly adopted clinical management for precancerous lesions.
Most HPV infections go away on their own as the immune system controls the infection. When a high-risk HPV infection lasts for many years, it can lead to changes in the cervical cells that, if untreated, can become cancer.
Other contributing risk factors include:
- Having high-risk sexual habits like early onset of sexual activity, multiple partners, and exposure to other sexually transmitted diseases which facilitate HPV infections
- Smoking, poor nutrition habits
What steps are needed for the Prevention of cervical cancer
- Get vaccinated. Gardasil 9 is available for women and men from 9 yrs to 45 yrs. It helps in preventing cervical, vulval, vaginal, anal, oropharyngeal, and other head and neck cancers. Also precancerous lesions, and genital warts.
- Routine papsmear from 21 years every 3 years , every 5 yrs if combined papsmear and HPV TEST is normal until 65 yrs, even if vaccinated. Women who have undergone total hysterectomy can stop screening if done for a benign condition. Women who have done supracervical hysterectomy should continue screening as usual.
- HPV Test and Proper Follow up if there is an abnormal smear report.
- Safe sex practices-limiting number of sex partners, avoiding sex with people who have multiple sex partners, use of condoms.
- Quit smoking
- Healthy life style including healthy food, exercise and sexual hygiene to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.