All About Cervical Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
An estimated 604,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer across the world in 2020 and around 342, 000 died from the disease.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women which is caused by the abnormal growth cells in a woman’s cervix or the entrance to the uterus from the vagina, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Model Poonam Pandey died of cervical cancer on Friday after she “bravely fought the disease”, her manager told NDTV. The news of the 32-year-old’s sudden death was shared by her team through her Instagram page.
What is cervical cancer?
An estimated 604,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer across the world in 2020 and around 342, 000 died from the disease. While common, cervical cancer is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer if detected early. In later stages, the disease can be controlled through proper treatment.
In her speech while presenting the Interim Budget for 2024, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the central government aims to encourage vaccination for girls aged 9 to 14 years for the prevention of cervical cancer.
Last year, the Centre said a India-made quadrivalent vaccine may be considered for introduction in the Universal Immunisation programme (UIP) as a twin dose regimen for adolescent girls.
How is it caused?
Human papillomavirus or HPV is the cause of 99% cases of cervical cancer. It is a common sexually transmitted infection which affects the throat, genitals and the skin. Almost all sexually active people will be infected at some point in their lives, usually without symptoms, says WHO.
In the majority of cases, the virus is cleared from the body by the immune system. However, persistent infection can lead to the growth of abnormal cells which can turn into cancer. While abnormal cells take 15-20 years to become cancer, in women with weak immune systems this process can take only 5-10 years.
Young mothers, hormonal contraceptive users, smokers and those other sexually transmitted infections are at a high risk of developing cervical cancer.
Symptoms and treatment
According to WHO, the following are the common symptoms related to cervical cancer:
- Unusual bleeding between periods, after menopause, or after sexual intercourse
- Increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Symptoms like persistent pain in the back, legs, or pelvis
- Weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite
- Vaginal discomfort
- Swelling in the legs
A diagnostic test by a medical profession is important to confirm the presence of cervical cancer. Treatments include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy as well as secondary care for pain management.