Expert Answers Frequently Asked Questions About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer basically develops slowly over time and is not a condition that suddenly arises. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix - which is located at the lower end of the Uterus (womb).
The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix - which is located at the lower end of the Uterus (womb). The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer basically develops slowly over time and is not a condition that suddenly arises. Approximately one in every 5, or 21% of all cases globally are reported from India. Prevention is certainly better than cure. Human Papilloma Vaccines or HPV vaccines are used as a primary prevention method.
1. How do we detect cervical cancer?
The most common method for detecting cervical cancer is clinical examination by a Gynaecologist. It is followed by tests including Pap smear, Ultrasound, MRI pelvis, PET scan, Biopsy of cervix with histopathological examination. It is important for women to get regular cervical cancer screenings. as early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment. Women who experience any symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or foul smelling discharge should consult with their healthcare provider as soon as possible.
When it comes to testing, there are two tests including Pap Liquid test and HPV test for detection - it is recommended that sexually active women take these tests as early as age 20-22 also. However, as a routine test, one can take it at the age of 25 and it can be conducted once every 5 years at least.
For women after 45, it is recommended they undergo yearly cancer screening tests along with Bone marrow density check, ultrasound and mammography.
2. How are HPV vaccines used for prevention?
HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is an incredibly effective tool in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine works by targeting the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the main cause of cervical cancer. Available HPV vaccines provide protection against HPV types 16 and 18. The World Health Organisation recommends HPV vaccines as part of routine vaccination worldwide. It is usually conducted in three doses depending on the age at which it is administered. It is important to receive all recommended doses to ensure maximum protection against HPV.
By combining vaccination and screening, we can greatly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer and improve public health outcomes.
3. How early is it recommended to take vaccination?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for early vaccination in both boys and girls. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the HPV vaccine. However, the vaccine can be given as early as 9 years old. The vaccine can also be given to individuals up to the age of 44 if they have not been previously vaccinated.
It is also important to speak with a healthcare provider to determine the best vaccination schedule and to address any concerns or questions about the vaccine.
4. How many doses are required per age groups?
For individuals aged 9-14, the CDC recommends two doses of the HPV vaccine given 6-12 months apart. For those aged 15 or older, three doses are recommended over a six-month period.
It is important to note that if an individual starts the HPV vaccine series before age 15 but does not complete the series before their 15th birthday, they can still receive the two-dose schedule. However, if they start the series after their 15th birthday, they must receive all three doses.
5. Does it have any impact on the monthly cycles or fertility?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine has any effect on menstrual cycles or fertility. The vaccine is designed to protect against specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer, such as cervical cancer. It does not contain any hormones or other substances that could affect menstrual cycles.
6. Any temporary side effects?
Temporary side effects may be there. They generally include some associated pain, redness or swelling at injection site, fever, dizziness, nausea and headaches.
It's important to note that these side effects are generally mild and temporary, and they do not usually require medical attention. Most people who receive the HPV vaccine do not experience any side effects at all.
If you have any concerns about the HPV vaccine or its side effects, you should talk to your healthcare provider. They can provide you with more information and help you make an informed decision about getting vaccinated.
7. Can girls get vaccinated before puberty for HPV?
Yes, girls can receive the HPV vaccine before puberty. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children receive the HPV vaccine between the ages of 11-12 years old, before they become sexually active and potentially exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine is most effective when given before any exposure to the virus, so vaccinating before puberty is ideal.
(Dr. Manisha Munemane, Director Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Surya Mother and Child Super Speciality Hospital Pune)
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