Dr Rama Joshi — the director and head of department (HOD) of gynaecology oncology and robotic surgery at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram — breaks down what cervical cancer is and how to safeguard yourself against it.

Dr Joshi says that close to one lakh women are detected with cervical cancer each year. Of this number, more than 50%, that is 54,000 women succumb to it.

She adds that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer that presents itself in women.

The important things to note are >>>

Cervical cancer is both preventable and treatable. Most cases are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.

However, there are other causes and factors which increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. Those include — early onset of sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, smoking, and immunosuppressant drugs.

The usual age group of women who present symptoms of cervical cancer is between 30 to 55 years of age.

Dr Joshi explains that symptoms of cervical cancer may not present themselves in the early stages because of its slow-growing nature.

1. Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or following a pelvic examination. 2. Vaginal bleeding post menopause. 3. Increased vaginal discharge that may be blood-stained. 4. Unexplained, persistent pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse.

But you should consult your doctor if you see:

Dr Joshi mentions that teaching girls about these diseases and ways to stay safe and prevent them is very important as preventive measures.

“Cervical cancer is highly related to sexual activity. Therefore, proper knowledge about it is important,” she adds.

The HPV vaccine is available for girls above the age of nine years, and Dr Joshi says it should ideally be given to girls at the age of 11, before the onset of any sexual activity or sexual exposure.

Dr Joshi also advises girls to undergo a screening test two years after becoming sexually active, and thereafter, on the recommendation of their doctor.

“It is important to remember that cervical cancer is preventable — primary prevention by vaccination and secondary prevention by regular screening. Do not let any symptom linger on, consult your doctor immediately for proper management of the disease,” she says.