Cancer survivor Yuvraj Singh wrote a piece for the editorial page of TOI today highlighting his battle for cancer and called for people to be more aware about the different types of cancer, particularly cervical cancer. ‘How many of you have insisted that the woman in your house – be it your wife, your sister or your daughter – gets herself screened at least once a year for breast or cervical cancer? Why must a woman feel ashamed or scared of going to a hospital and asking for a mammogram or a pap smear? What makes it worse is that there seems to be a certain stigma attached to cervical cancer. In fact, the moment you mention the words cervix and screening together – women will feel embarrassed and men, be it fathers or husbands, will shy away from the subject, simply because it is associated with sexual behaviour. This is the biggest mistake that is taking place in households across India, be it in the cities or villages,’ he wrote.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer refers to the cancer of the cervix and is one of the most common forms of cancer in women along with breast cancer. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer can be considered one of the few types of cancer that are contagious because the HPV can spread through unprotected intercourse. The Pap smear test, a cervical screening test to identify precancerous changes is the best way to diagnose cervical cancer early.
In recent times it has beaten breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in India; it kills around 33,000 women every year in India. Cervical cancer is known to occur because of a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) transmitted through sexual contact. Bad local hygiene, too many children, not enough spacing between children, low nutrition levels and early marriage all contribute to the risk factors. The high risk group includes girls who have had premature sex as teenagers, those who have had multiple pregnancies or multiple sex partners and don’t use contraceptives. The disease remains asymptomatic for a long time till it starts invading neighbouring tissues.