Gynae Oncology Cervical Cancer; An Overview & Why Vaccination Is Important?

Cervical Cancer; An Overview & Why Vaccination Is Important?

Cervical Cancer; An Overview & Why Vaccination Is Important?

Cancer is present in various forms, organs, tissues and lymph nodes. However, cervical cancer has alarmingly become the second most common type of cancer found worldwide in women. Including several developing countries like India, cervical cancer has grown to be a cause of concern in women as the most common and deadly cancer.  Several researches have concluded that every year, more than 1,22,800 women in India are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost half of the number die from the disease.

What is the reason behind the spread of cervical cancer?

HPV, a well-established agent of cervical cancer is the primary reason behind the spread of the cancer. Medically termed as the Human Papilloma Virus, HPV is a known group of viruses that has more than 100 related viruses causing cervical cancer. Continuous cervical infections along with a high-risk stain of HPV type 16&18 are the most prominent causes of cervical cancer. Moreover, HPV virus also exists as genital warts, and can also cause cancers of the vagina, anus, penis, oropharynx or vulva.

How can Cervical Cancer be prevented?

Experts suggests that 80% of the related cervical cancers can be easily prevented with vaccinations available. These vaccinations can be given before a woman is exposed to the virus or attains puberty. While, routine screenings and tests are necessary to prevent and eradicate the cause of the cancer; experts advice getting the vaccination done on time.

What are the Types of Vaccinations available for women, worldwide?

There are three vaccines that have been approved worldwide by medical experts. These vaccinations are considered the safest and 100% effective. They are also meant for different types of HPV.

Cervarix:  bivalent vaccine is meant to target HPV types 16 and 18, which are the main cause of cervical cancer

Gardasil: It is a quadrivalent vaccine. Quadrivalent because it targets HPV types 16,18 as well as 6 and 11. That means, it does not only provide prevention against cancers but also genital warts.

Gardasil9:  Currently not available in India. Gardasil 9 offers immunity towards HPV types 6,11, 16 and 18 along with 31,33,45,52,58. This vaccination covers all HPV viruses that are responsible for 90% cases of cervical cancer including genital warts and infections.

When should one take HPV vaccinations?

In India, females can take the HPV vaccination at the age of 11 or 12. The HPV vaccination can also be given early at the age of 9. However, the age of 11 and 12 are considered appropriate. A Catch-up vaccination is also allowed for women up to the age of 45 years.

For girls younger than 15 years, doctors suggest a 2-dose schedule and further a three-dose scheduleis recommended for females between ages 15 and 45. Doctors mention that women usually don’t require a booster dose as the benefit of the first doses last for a long time.

Currently, oncologists and experts in India do not recommended the vaccination for pregnant woman. If at all a woman becomes pregnant after the vaccination, the woman is advised to take remainder of the doses after delivery. There is a special provision for Immunocompromisedpatients, where they are recommended to follow a 3-dose schedule regardless of their age when vaccination is initiated.

As other females, those females who have been vaccinated should also continue to have their routine screening through Pap smear or HPV testing.

India, today is still struggling with the practice to introduce the vaccinations at appropriate rates as it is often related to the social issues of child abuse, teenage sexuality, parental pressures, etc. Due to the lack of knowledge and perceived notion of vaccination with higher prices, vaccinations for HPV are still a far-off sight for rural India. However, successful introduction and use of HPV vaccination and attempts to conduct effective screening strategies has provided a hope for women in India to fight cervical cancer.

Hence, it is the necessary to talk more about the myths of HPV vaccine. This will help women, especially in rural India to understand that available vaccinationsare safe to use withoutany side effects.

– Dr. Shurti Bhatia
Consultant – Gynae Oncology