Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting and causing deaths among women in India. Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. The lower part of the uterus known as Cervix is affected due to HPV infection. This cancer develops very slowly and most of the times is asymptomatic during the development stage.
HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and usually spreads through sexual or skin-to-skin contact. In most women, this infection clears off with time, however, in many women it can lead to pre-cancerous and cancerous conditions.
Along with HPV vaccination cervical cancer can also be prevented by practising basic lifestyle changes:
- PAP test screening every 3 years
- Quit smoking
- Avoid sexual contact with multiple partners
- Maintain sexual hygiene
- Maintain physical health with a healthy diet and exercise
Like many other diseases, there are lots of myths surrounding HPV infection and cervical cancer. Below are 8 myths busted with facts about HPV and cervical cancer:
- Myth 1: I do not have any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer; I do not require any screening test.
- Fact: A screening test is done to find out if there is any abnormality in women who are not having symptoms. Initially an abnormal cervical cell does not cause any symptoms but can be detected during PAP test.
- Myth 2: I have taken HPV vaccine at young age; I do not require to undergo screening or PAP test.
- Fact: Vaccination is effective only when taken at adolescent age or woman who are not yet sexually active. All women, including those who are vaccinated, need to take PAP test.
- Myth 3: HPV affects only women and not men.
- Fact: HPV causes cervical cancer which is seen only in women. However, it can cause penile cancer in men and anal, head and neck cancers in both genders.
- Myth 4: Since there is no history of cervical cancer in my family I am not at risk and do not require to undergo screening.
- Fact: Cervical cancer is caused by infection of HPV virus and is not a genetic disease. Hence, irrespective of family history, women are at risk and need to undergo screening.
- Myth 5: Only women with multiple partners are at higher risk.
- Fact: It is true that women with multiple partners are at higher risk. However, women with single partner who has multiple partners are equally at higher risk.
- Myth 6: My PAP test report is normal, hence there is no need to undergo screening again
- Fact: A normal report does not mean that there is no risk of cervical cancer forever. Every woman between age group of 30 to 60 must undergo PAP test screening every 3 years.
- Myth 7: Women who had undergone Hysterectomy, do not need to undergo screening test
- Fact: It is important for women to take PAP test irrespective of Hysterectomy. Those women who has undergone Total Hysterectomy (removal of cervix along with uterus) need not take screening test.
- Myth 8: HPV infection gets cleared from body on its own
- Fact: In very few cases, HPV infection is cleared on its own without any symptoms. However, if infection stays, it can lead to serious conditions like genital warts and various types of cancers.
Cervical cancer, if detected at an early stage, is a completely treatable condition. Timely screening and detection are important and can save many lives. Along with this, public awareness and education are equally important.
Let us together spread the facts and bust the myths!
Let us together SAVE LIVES!
Blog by: Deepa Dharmadhikari (Regional Sales Manager)