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Regular Screening, A Must To Maintain Cervical Health

Although most HPV infections resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women. It is the chief cancer detected in Indian women and the second most common cancer in women across the globe

Cervical cancer as the name suggests develops in a woman's cervix – the entrance of the uterus from the vagina. Infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) commonly transmitted through sexual contact is linked with almost all cervical cancer cases. 

Although most HPV infections resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women. It is the chief cancer detected in Indian women and the second most common cancer in women across the globe.   

Cells of the cervix do not change into cancer overnight, instead, they first develop abnormal changes that are called pre-cancerous changes (pre-cancers). In most women, these pre-cancerous changes usually go away without any treatment, however, in some women pre-cancers could turn into true invasive cancers.   

When diagnosed early and managed effectively, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer. Cancers diagnosed in late stages can be controlled as well with appropriate treatment and palliative care.   

A comprehensive approach to prevention, screening and treatment, cervical cancer as a public health problem can end within a few generations. 

Importance of regular screening  

Cervical cells usually take 3 – 7 years to undergo high-grade changes before they turn cancerous. Screening for cervical cancer aims to find both pre-cancerous cells and to catch cancer early when it is more treatable and curable.  

Regular screening can play an important role to prevent cervical cancers and save lives. Women having low-grade changes can have frequent screening tests to see if their cells go back to normal, while women with high-grade changes can be treated to have the cells removed.   

The screening tests for cervical cancer screening include HPV test and the Pap test. The latter detects pre-cancerous changes that can be treated timely to prevent cancer from developing. While the former looks for high risk types of HPV infection that are likely to cause pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. Though HPV infection has no treatment, however, a vaccine can help prevent it. But the HPV vaccine does not offer protection against all types of HPV that can cause cancer. So women vaccinated against HPV still need to follow the cervical cancer screening recommendations for their age group 

Prevention is the key 

While there is no sure shot way to completely prevent cervical cancer, but you can do a number of things that might lower your risk of the disease. Regular screening and HPV vaccination are by far well-proven ways to prevent cervical cancer.   

Based on your overall health, age, and personal risk for cervical cancer, there are some things that may be helpful to prevent pre-cancers and conditions that lead to pre-cancers. 

Control exposure to HPV 

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a commonly occurring viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most men and women in their sexually active years will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives and some may get repeated infection with it. HPV transmission doesn’t require penetrative sex, skin-to-skin genital contact is a well-recognized mode of transmission.  

There are many types of HPV, most of which do not cause problems. HPV infections usually clear up in a couple of months without the need of any intervention, and about 90 per cent clear within 2 years. A small proportion of infections with certain types of HPV can continue for long periods of time and progress to cervical cancer.  

Though it could be hard not to be exposed to HPV, however, you can lower your risk of exposure to HPV by limiting the number of sex partners and avoid having sex with people having many other sex partners. 

Make sure to use a condom 

While condoms do not completely prevent infection, but they do provide some protection against HPV. In addition, they also help protect against HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections.  

Stay away from smoking 

Another important way to reduce your risk of cervical pre-cancer and cancer is to stay away from smoking.  

Bottom-line 

Though cervical cancer is a preventable and curable disease, it is responsible for a large burden of suffering in women worldwide, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Regular cervical cancer screening has an important role to save lives. The number of cervical cancer cases and deaths in the US has decreased by one half over the past thirty years as a result of women getting regular cervical cancer screening. Addressing disparities in access to high-quality health services are important to uphold the right to health for adolescent girls and women. 


Tags assigned to this article:
healthcare cervical cancer women cancer

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