CERVICAL CANCER – IMPORTANCE OF SCREENING

SCREEN – EDUCATE – PREVENT

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India accounting for 22.86% of all cancer cases in women and is the third largest cause of cancer mortality in India accounting for nearly 10% of all cancer related deaths in the country.

High proportion of women in India are diagnosed at advanced stage due to:

– Lack of knowledge about relevant symptoms

– Resigned attitude towards cancer and possibility of being cured

– Poor healthcare infrastructure in rural areas

– Women keeping health issues on low priority for themselves

Cervical cancer is caused by HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Certain strains of HPV are potential to cause abnormalities to the cells of cervix. Women between age groups of 21 to 65 are commonly affected with maximum cases seen in women in their 30s.

IMPORTANCE OF SCREENING:

If detected at early stage, cervical cancer can be prevented and cured completely. Cervical cancer is the only one of five gynaecological cancers with effective screening programs run by healthcare providers and government all over the country. The screening test is commonly known as PAP test or PAP smear. The test is easily available with any gynaecology clinic, hospital, and pathology labs.

PAP test detects the abnormalities in cervical cells caused by HPV which can lead to cervical cancer. Since cervical cancer develops very slowly, it is important for every woman to get screened to avoid the complications.

Screening Guidelines according to American Cancer Society:

Age groupRecommendation
<21 yearsNo screening required
21-29 yearsPAP test every 3 years
30 to 65 yearsPAP test plus HPV testing every 5 years
>65 yearsNo screening if regular test done in past 10 years or no pre-cancers in past 20 years

A woman who is at average risk of cervical cancer, takes 10 to 20 years to develop the cancer. Hence, screening is recommended at every 3 and 5 years. These screening intervals help identify if these women require additional monitoring to prevent development of cervical cancer in future.

Benefits of PAP Test:

  • Having a Pap test reassures you if you are HPV infection free or the gravity of infection
  • Regular Pap tests may help prevent cervical cancer by finding cervical cell changes in your body that would become cancer if left untreated
  • A Pap test helps find cervical cancer early before you have symptoms
  • A Pap test helps find cervical cancer before it spreads when it is easier to treat
  • Early detection may mean less treatment and less time spent recovering

EDUCATE and PREVENT:

Educating and spreading awareness about importance of screening and prevention of cervical cancer plays a crucial role. Many women in rural as well as urban areas, are not yet aware of importance of screening test. Women can be made aware about the signs and symptoms of HPV infections. Local healthcare providers can partner with NGOs to host screening and awareness programs. Gynaecologists need to start counselling and advising PAP test regularly to women at high-risk age group.

It is important to remember that cervical cancer is preventable and completely curable if detected at early or pre-cancerous stage.

AINDRA’S CERVASTRA:

AIndra’s CervAstra is an AI integrated point-of-care device to detect cervical cancer. With the deployment of CervAstra, women can head over to their local clinics or primary healthcare centers and get screened for cervical cancer with a standard PAP smear sample. The automated program can stain and screen multiple slides at a time. An AI program then identifies, marks the cells that appear to be cancerous and digitize the images of slides. The pathologist can access and report these images from anywhere.

Blog by: Deepa Dharmadhikari (Regional Sales Manager)

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