Cervical Cancer Awareness: January is known as the Cervical Cancer Awareness month as it helps in raising awareness about the disease, possible ways of contracting it, and early stages of diagnosing it. Cervical Cancer develops in the cells of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Common signs of Cervical cancer are bleeding in between the menstrual period and after sexual intercourse. Lower abdominal pain and lower back pain can also denote Cervical cancer. However, in some people, Cervical cancer hardly show any symptoms in the early stages. As we observe January as the month of raising Cervical Cancer Awareness, let’s look at some of the myths that exist around it, and debunk them:
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Monisha Gupta, Senior Consultant, Gyane Oncology, Fortis Shalimar Bagh helped us debunk some myths:
Myth: There is no defined cause for cervical cancer
Fact: We have a very well-known cause of cervical cancer and that is Human Papillomavirus, HPV infection.
Myth: HPV only affects people with multiple sexual partners or unsafe sex practices.
Fact: HPV infection occurs in every male and female partner who are sexually active. About 80% of males and females are HPV infected at every given point of time. The sexual transmission of HPV infection between male and female happens routinely.
Myth: Cervical cancer is hereditary.
Fact: No. Cervical cancer is not hereditary like Breast and Ovarian cancer.
Myth: Having HPV infection means I shall have cervical cancer.
Fact: No, there are more than 100 strains of HPV virus, but ONLY 9-10 strains are known to cause cancer. Moreover, majority of HPV infections get cleared from our body due to our immune system within 2 years.
Myth: There is no need for screening test if there are no symptoms.
Fact: Cervical cancer causes no symptoms in early stage in majority of females. And when symptoms occur, its usually stage II/III. So, it’s very important to go for regular screening test for early detection.
Myth: Screening for cervical cancer should be done yearly.
Fact: The ideal protocol for cervical cancer screening is 3-yearly Pap smear test in women less than 30 years and 5-yearly Pap+ HPV testing in women above 30 years till 65 years of age.
Myth: Why one should go for HPV vaccination
Fact: Since cervical cancer is caused by a viral infection, it can be prevented by vaccination just like polio, typhoid and other diseases.
Dr. Tejinder Kataria, Chairperson Radiation Oncology & Cancer Center, Medanta – The Medicity further helped us debunk a few more myths related to Cervical Cancer:
Myth: Cancer cervix is contagious
Fact: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection of the genital area and can be contagious through sexual contact.
Myth: HPV infection cannot be eradicated
Fact: HPV infection can occur once in a life time of sexually active women and a large proportion of women clear this infection from their system over time with the assistance of a healthy immune system.
Myth: Cervical cancer is fatal
Fact: Women with cancer cervix stage 0-1A are curable in 93-95% of cases. The earlier the cancer is detected the better are cure rates.
Myth: A positive test for HPV means cancer will occur
Fact: Most of the women will clear the HPV infection with a good immune system Hence HPV infection does not mean cancer will definitely occur.
Myth: PAP smear test can rule out all women cancers
Fact: PAP smear test is diagnostic only for cancer cervix and does not rule out breast, ovarian or uterine cancers.
Myth: HPV infection occurs only in girls
Fact: HPV infection can occur in both males and females. In males it can present as genital warts or can also lead to development of anal /oro-pharyngeal cancers.