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Facts on Cervical Cancer and treatment options

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Cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer among women, globally and is the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in developing countries. Globally, over 5 lakh women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually of which 1 lakh are from India.

There is a wide variation in incidence with urban population accounting for 40% and rural population accounting for 60% of cases. Middle-aged women, especially from lower socioeconomic status, are more prone to this.  While mortality from cervical cancer has decreased by 75% in developed countries over the last 5 decades, it is not the same case in India, due to the lack of effective screening.

Risk factors:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, Immune system deficiency: Women with lowered immune systems have a higher risk of developing
cervical cancer.

Herpes: Women who have
genital herpes have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

Smoking: Women who smoke
are about twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as women who do not smoke.

Age: People younger than 20
years old rarely develop cervical cancer. The risk goes up between the late
teens and mid-30s. Women past this age group remain at risk and need to have
regular cervical cancer screenings, which include a Pap test and/or
an HPV test.

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Socioeconomic factors: Cervical
cancer is more common among groups of women who are less likely to have access
to screening for cervical cancer.

Exposure to diethylstilboestrol
(DES): 
Women whose mothers were given this drug during pregnancy to
prevent miscarriage have an increased risk of developing a rare type of cancer
of the cervix or vagina.

Prevention:

There
are 2 kinds of prevention, Primary and secondary prevention.

Primary prevention:  Identifying the early-stage cancers which prevent the progress of the disease. Pap smear and HPV testing are two methods for screening.

 Screening: All women from 21-65 years age are recommended to undergo an office-based test called Pap smear every 3 years or Co-testing with pap smear + HPV test every 5 years.  For women more than 65 years no screening is recommended if she was hysterectomised previously or had no CIN 2/3 lesion previously.

Secondary prevention: Preventing the development of pre-cancers, HPV vaccination, avoidance of smoking,  avoidance of multiple sex partners and use of a condom.

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