The world has so much focused on breast cancer in women that many people have failed to realise the harm that cervical cancer is causing in our world. It is the fourth most common cancer in the world and India, it adds to about 6-29% of all cancers found in women. Cervical cancer is a cancer that is found at the cervix which is the entrance into the womb from the vagina. Its main cause (about 90% of the time) is the Human Papilloma Virus –HPV which is a sexually transmitted virus which has over a hundred strains out of which about 14 of them are associated with cervical cancer. When an individual has a long term infection with the virus, it can lead to cervical cancer later in life. There are other risk factors involved in cervical cancer besides the HPV and they are as follows below:

  • Being a woman. All women are at risk of cervical cancer.
  • Having several sexual partners places a person at risk of contracting the HPV which eventually leads to cervical cancer.
  • Having sex at an early age.
  • Low or weak body system immunity especially in individuals who have HIV.
  • Prolonged use of birth control pills.
  • Smoking.

At the early stages of cervical cancer, there are usually no symptoms. However, symptoms become visible as the disease progresses. These symptoms can be very disturbing and at the same time many women will ignore them because they are similar to menstrual related issues that people see as normal. The symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • Bleeding in between menstruation period.
  • Vaginal discharge which could become smelly with disease progression.
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse.
  • Spotting or bleeding in menopause.
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite and fatigue
  • Persistent pelvic pain

If you have any of the above symptoms, make sure you visit a doctor for screening tests because early detection is key to recovery in all types of cancer.

Thinking of cervical cancer gives the chills especially when you realise that one of the risk factors is having sex at an early age. We live in a world where child molestation and early marriages occur every now and then thereby placing these kids at risk. The good news is that there is HPV vaccine and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends its administration to individuals between the age of 9 and 26. This way cervical cancer can be prevented to a large extent. This vaccine is very safe and effective. The guidelines have been adjusted and women between ages 26 and 45 can now take the vaccine after consulting their doctor.