Cervical cancer is the 4th most common cancer in women worldwide. According to the recent reports of the WHO, India accounts for one-third of all deaths.
In 2022, India recorded the highest number of cervical cancers in Asia. It was found that out of 40% of total deaths, 23% occurred in India whereas 17% was in China.
It was observed in Fact Sheet 2023 of Human Papillomavirus and Related Cancers, that women between the ages of 15 and 44 are most prone to this cancer. The rates have become quite higher in Indian women compared to global estimates.
As per the National Cancer Registry Programme, cervical cancer accounts for 6-29% out of all cancers found in women. Hence, frequent and accessible healthcare services are needed to reduce these numbers.
It has also been previously discovered that women over the age of 15 in India were at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer as per the GLOBOCAN 2020 statistics. Thus with improved health care services, we can encourage women to take control of their cervical health and reduce the risks associated with it.
Because January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we intend to increase awareness about this cancer. This post will cover its development, treatment, and precautions to progress towards its abolition.
How is cervical cancer developed in women?
The cervix in a woman’s body is found in the lower part of the uterus. This connects the uterus to the vagina.
The cancer in the cervix is developed through the infection of the HPV virus. If a woman is persistently infected with the HPV virus due to poor genital hygiene. This may lead to cancerous growth in the cervical region. Generally, it is a slow-developing cancer that can be prevented before it fully develops.
HPV infects women at some point and are likely to get rid of it naturally through a good immune system. However, if the virus infection persists, it may show changes in the cells’ functioning. This eventually turns the cells and leads to cancer development.
Therefore if not detected early, it can spread to other parts of the body and can cause a major threat to the individual health.
Major complications associated with cervical cancer
Cervical cancer has many stages when it comes to measuring its complexity. It is also known to be very treatable in its initial stages. However, it holds a great potential to reoccur even after a successful treatment.
Discussing its normal complication, it contributes to bleeding and abnormal discharge from the vaginal region. During this, mensural cycles may become longer or heavier. It is typically noted that the growth of cancer results in weight loss and chronic poor stress conditions.
When it comes to its advanced stages, the cancer may lead to significant complications related to the bladder or rectum. This can also affect the abnormal functioning of nearby organs which further results in difficulty urinating or bowel problems.
Other complications occur when it grows largely into the nearby tissues. It leads to the spread of cancer via the bloodstream or infected lymphatic system. This stage usually arises in the process of metastasis which leads to the formation of tumors. Thus making it challenging for an individual to overcome such issues.
Therapies for cervical cancer patients
Therapies are advised according to the stage of the cancer. Looking at the women’s overall health, the choice of treatments is recommended to reduce further complications. These are-
Surgery – Different types of surgeries are done after checking the cancer stages. In the early stages, conization is recommended which includes removing the cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. Whereas, In the advanced stages, Hysterectomy is recommended which involves the removal of the uterus.
Radiation therapy – This includes radiation beams to eliminate cancerous cells. It also helps in removing the hard cells of tumors.
Chemotherapy- This involves drugs to kill cancer cells and is majorly useful when the cancer has spread beyond the cervix.
Immunotherapy – This therapy boosts the immune system that attacks cancer cells present in the body.
Targeted therapy- In this therapy, a combination of certain medications is given to target cancer cells specifically. This is to stop the cancer cells from spreading which limits damage to healthy cells
Challenges of Cervical Cancer In India
Understanding and caring about this vulnerable part of women’s reproductive system has become crucial today. It is taken lightly as this disease affects a sensitive area, yet we must not forget that it also has the highest death toll.
Having a current screening rate of less than 30%. This creates another alarming sign for Indian women to be aware of its detection.
A major reason why the incidence of cervical cancer in other countries is low is because there are open discussions related to its transmission. This has led them to reduce its causative factors and prevent its spread.
Some common factors that must be also considered by India to reduce the higher risk of cervical cancer are-
- Limiting to indulging with multiple sexual partners or engaging in unprotected sex
- India must have widespread HPV vaccination programs to educate and inform females about this disease.
- Offering vaccination to prevent infection can give long-term protection and reduce susceptibility to this virus.
- Accessible cervical cancer screening through Pap smears or HPV testing must be done for its early detection.
- Timely intervention must be done to lower the rates and increase its prevention and treatment.
- India must also follow societal and cultural norms to take new initiatives against it. Bearing a culture of openness about sexual health can keep individuals well-informed and alert to take preventive measures.
- Raising awareness about the importance of vaccination, safe sexual practices, and regular screenings will also help in reducing these incidences.
By fostering a culture of awareness, and education related to cervical health, Unimarck Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, contributes to raising awareness about this disease. With this article, we intend to uplift women while educate and empower them to make informed decisions about their health. We hope the year 2024 presents a collective effort to combat the disease of cervical cancer. This will ensure better outcomes against this deadly cancer while enabling the well-being of women across the nation.