Cervical cancer is a deadly disease that affects women around the world.
But did you know that most cases of cervical cancer can be prevented? In this blog post, we will explore how human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes cervical cancer, and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from this preventable disease.
HPV and Cervical Cancer: What’s the Connection?
HPV is a common virus that infects the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals, mouth, and throat. There are more than 100 types of HPV, but only some of them can cause cancer. These are called high-risk HPV types, and they can damage the cells of the cervix, leading to abnormal growths that may eventually become cancerous.
The most common way to get HPV is through sexual contact with an infected person. HPV can be transmitted even if there are no visible symptoms or signs of infection. Most people who get HPV never develop any health problems, and their immune system clears the virus within a few years. However, some people may not be able to get rid of the virus, and it may persist in their body for a long time. This increases their risk of developing cervical cancer or other HPV-related diseases.
How Can You Prevent HPV Infection and Cervical Cancer?
The good news is that there are effective ways to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer. Here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones
– Get vaccinated against HPV. There are two vaccines available in India that can protect you from some of the most common and dangerous types of HPV. Gardasil protects against seven high-risk HPV types, while Cervarix protects against two high-risk HPV types. These vaccines are safe and effective, and they work best if given before you become sexually active. The recommended age for vaccination is between 9 and 14 years for both boys and girls, but it can also be given up to 26 years for women and 21 years for men who have not been vaccinated before.
– Get screened regularly for cervical cancer. Even if you have been vaccinated against HPV, you still need to get screened regularly for cervical cancer. This is because the vaccines do not protect against all types of HPV, and you may have been exposed to the virus before getting vaccinated. Screening tests can detect abnormal cells in your cervix before they turn into cancer, and allow for early treatment that can save your life. The most common screening test is called a Pap smear or liquid-based cytology, which involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix and examining them under a microscope. Another screening test is called an HPV test, which detects the presence of high-risk HPV types in your cervix. Depending on your age and risk factors, you may need to get screened every 3 to 10 years.
– Follow up on abnormal test results. If your screening test shows abnormal cells or high-risk HPV types in your cervix, you will need further evaluation and treatment to prevent cervical cancer. This may involve a procedure called colposcopy, which uses a magnifying device to examine your cervix more closely and take biopsies of any suspicious areas. Depending on the results of the biopsies, you may need treatment to remove or destroy the abnormal cells, such as cryotherapy, laser therapy, or surgery.
– Practice safe sex. Using condoms correctly and consistently can reduce your risk of getting or spreading HPV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, condoms do not cover all areas of the skin that may be infected with HPV, so they are not 100% effective in preventing HPV transmission. Therefore, it is important to limit your number of sexual partners, and to get tested for STIs regularly if you are sexually active.
– Quit smoking. Smoking can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off HPV infection. Smoking can also increase your risk of developing cervical cancer or other HPV-related diseases.
Cervical cancer is a serious but preventable disease that affects millions of women around the world. By getting vaccinated against HPV, getting screened regularly for cervical cancer, following up on abnormal test results, practicing safe sex, and quitting smoking, you can reduce your risk of developing this disease and improve your chances of survival if you do get it.
Remember: Prevention is better than cure! Take action today to protect yourself and your loved ones from cervical cancer!