With 1,30,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in the country, India accounts for nearly a third of all new cases in the world. What's worse, in another decade, more than 2.3 lakh new cases of this preventable cancer might be diagnosed annually. Yet, doctors in this campaign found that awareness for cervical cancer is extremely low. 95 per cent of women who turned up for screening had no idea what cervical cancer was...Some called it cancer of the neck and cancer of the abdomen!
In urban India, cervical cancer accounts for 40 per cent of all cancers in women and in rural India the figure is higher, at 60. A 10 minute pap-smear procedure - priced at around Rs 1000/ at private hospitals - is recommended to screen for this cancer. Dr Shetty, Onco-Surgeon Fortis Hospital advises that, "Every woman above the age of 21 must get a pap smear test done at least once a year. Once the cancer develops, treatment is expensive but it is 100% curable if detected at an early stage."
Most doctors advise this procedure once a year, once a woman is sexually active.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the uterine cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (or womb). The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. Abnormal cells in the cervix can turn into cancer if they aren't found early and treated. Cervical cancer is most common in women over age 30.
What is the Pap Smear test and who needs it?
The test takes maximum 5-10 minutes and doesn't hurt. While you lie on the exam table, the doctor or nurse will collect few cells from the cervix from a special tool. These cells are sent to a lab to be checked by an expert. The doctor or nurse will also do a pelvic exam to check the uterus, ovaries, and other organs.
Who need to get tested?
According to doctors:
• Women between the ages of 21-29 need a Pap smear test every 3 years.
• Women of ages 30 to 65 need to get screened every 3 or 5 years, depending on how they are tested.
• If your doctor or nurse gives you just a Pap smear test, get screened every 3 years. If your doctor or nurse gives you a Pap smear test and an HPV test, get screened every 5 years.
• If you are 66 years of age or older, ask your doctor if you need to get tested for cervical cancer. Testing for cervical cancer is very affordable and it costs as less as Rs. 300- 350/-.
Points to keep in mind before scheduling a Pap smear test:
Pap smear test has to be scheduled when a woman is not chumming. For 2 days before your test, doctors recommend that you don't:
· Use tampons
· Have sex
· Use birth control creams, foams, or jellies
· Douche (rinse the vagina with water or other liquid)
Who is at risk?
A major cause of cervical cancer is HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is the most common STD (sexually transmitted disease). Some types of HPV can cause genital warts or anal cancer. Other types of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
You are at higher risk of getting HPV if you:
· Started having sex before age 18
· Have unprotected sex
· Have many different sex partners
· Have a sex partner who has other sex partners