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Cervical Cancer Awareness

The cases of cervical cancer are rising every year, with millions of women being affected worldwide. Presently, it ranks 4th in the list of the most common cancers affecting women across the globe. The cancer develops in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, which is also referred to as the birth canal. In the majority of the cases, it is linked to persistent HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, which is a sexually transmitted infection. If left untreated for long, the infection can trigger abnormal changes in the cervical cells, resulting in cancer. This however can take around 15 to 20 years in women, who are otherwise healthy. For those with existing immune problems, it can take around 5 to 10 years. 

We all know how serious it is, but not everyone knows that it is preventable and highly treatable if detected in its early stages. This, however, calls for the need for regular screening. Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers for which proper screening is available and this somehow gives you an upper hand. Reading this blog will help you understand more about cervical cancer and why you should consider going for regular screening. 

Analyzing the risk factors of cervical cancer

By now, you must have understood that HPV infection is the leading cause of cervical cancer. However, it is pertinent to note that it is not the only cause. 

The causative reasons are: 

  • HPV Infection: The major risk factor for cervical cancer is the infection with high-risk HPV strains.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use weakens the immune system and increases the risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Weakened Immune System: Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, increase the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
  • Long-Term Use of Oral Contraceptives: Women who have used birth control pills for an extended period have a slightly higher risk.
  • Multiple Sexual Partners: Engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners increases the risk of HPV infection.
  • Lack of Pap Smear screening: Women who do not undergo regular Pap smear or Liquid Base Cytology (LBC) tests are at a higher risk of late-stage detection.

It is important to note that anyone can develop cervical cancer, irrespective of their risk profile.  

Getting familiar with cervical cancer symptoms 

Cervical cancer can manifest in different ways and not every woman presents with the same set of symptoms. Here, we have enlisted 4 of the most common symptoms that have been linked with cervical cancer. 

  • Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding: Unusual bleeding between periods, after sex, or post-menopause can indicate cervical cancer. Some women may also experience spotting or period flow that is heavier than usual. 
  • Pelvic Pain: Persistent pain in the pelvis, ranging from a dull ache to severe discomfort. Pain may also be experienced in the lower back. 
  • Unusual Vaginal Discharge: Increased vaginal discharge that may contain blood or have a foul odour. 
  • Painful Intercourse: Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse may indicate an underlying issue, including cervical cancer.

While these symptoms are an indication of cervical cancer, experiencing these does not necessarily mean that you have the problem. Therefore, it is always recommended to go for proper tests and diagnosis before reaching a conclusion. 

Getting an HPV Vaccine

The recommended age for HPV vaccination is between 9 and 12 years, but if you haven’t taken it yet, it's never too late. You can always take it till the age of 45.

The vaccine is most effective if administered before an individual becomes sexually active and potentially exposed to the virus. However, regular screening is still suggested to detect early signs of cervical cancer.

The Importance of Cancer Screening

Early detection is key to successfully treating cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a preventable disease, and early detection plays a vital role in saving lives. Regular screenings, such as Pap smears or LBC and HPV tests, can detect abnormal changes in the cervix before they become cancerous. Hence, it is important to go for regular screening and also encourage the women around you to opt for the same. 

You can now book your cancer screening package online to get your sample collected from your doorstep. Click Female Cancer Screening Package or Male Cancer Screening Package 

Pap Smear or Liquid-Based Cytology Test

The Pap smear or LBC test stands as a cornerstone in cervical cancer prevention, providing a simple yet powerful means of early detection. It is a simple and effective screening test designed to detect abnormalities in the cervix's cells before they develop into cervical cancer. In this, a sample of cells from the cervix is examined under a microscope to identify any precancerous or cancerous changes.

HPV Test

The HPV PCR test is a molecular diagnostic test that detects the presence of high-risk HPV strains in cervical cells. It is advised to do the Pap Smear test every three years starting at the age of 21. However, after the age of 30, a combination of Pap smear and HPV test every five years is recommended.

Who Should Undergo Cervical Cancer Screening?

  • Regular cervical cancer screening is recommended for all women aged 21 to 65 years.
  • Regular screening is also recommended for females who are vaccinated because there are chances that the vaccination does not provide full protection against all types of HPV.
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems and the ones infected with HIV may be advised to undergo more frequent cervical cancer screenings.
  • If someone has a history of abnormal Pap Smear results in the past, it is better to go for more frequent screenings.

How Often Should Women Undergo Cervical Cancer Screening?

How often you need screening depends on your age and other risk factors.

  • Women aged 21 to 29 - Pap test every three years.
  • Women aged 30 to 65 - Pap test and HPV test (co-testing) every five years, or Pap test alone every three years.
  • Women aged 65 and older - Routine screening is generally not recommended unless there is a history of abnormal results or high-risk factors.

Share this blog with your loved ones to help them understand more about cervical cancer.

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