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Is Cervical Cancer Preventable? Experts Debunk Some Myths Around It

This cervical cancer awareness month, bust some common myths surrounding this disease.

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India has the highest number of cervical cancer cases in Asia, according to a Lancet study, which also revealed that out of the 40 percent of the total deaths from cervical cancer, 23 percent occurred in India.

Cervical cancer is also the fourth most common cancer among women globally.

January is marked as cervical cancer awareness month. So, we spoke to experts to bust some common myths surrounding it.

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MYTH: CERVICAL CANCER IS NOT A PREVENTABLE DISEASE

According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and vaccination against Human Papillomavirus or HPV – the virus responsible for cancer of the cervix.

Dr Neha Bothara states a very robust screening tool called the Papanicolaou test, also known as Pap smear, that helps detect early stages of cancer.

She adds, "Cervical cancer, luckily for women, is very much preventable because of two reasons. One is that we have vaccines available for the virus that causes cervical cancer and secondly because there is a very robust screening tool that detects even pre-cancer and early stages of cancer which are much better treatable."

MYTH: ALL HPV STRAINS CAUSE CERVICAL CANCER

HPV is majorly transmitted through sexual contact but more than 90 percent of infected people clear the infection eventually, says WHO.

It also states that nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused due to HPV infection but not all HPV causes cervical cancer.

"HPV virus has numerous strains, till date over 100 strains have been identified but there are a few HPV strains that are more associated with cervical cancer like HPV 16 and 18 are the most potent for causing HPV infection and that infection remains in the body, further leading to cancer at a later date," says Bothara.

Other strains like HPV 30 and 32 or others which are identified are less commonly associated with cancer than 16 and 18 but little more than others. So, each and every HPV does not cause cancer. 
Dr Neha Bothara, Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi
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MYTH: CERVICAL CANCER ENDS THE POSSIBILITY OF FERTILITY

Dr Neethu Puthalon Kunnath told The Quint that there are many options if a woman wants to conceive while suffering from cervical cancer. She states:

  • If diagnosed at an early stage, a portion of the cervix can be removed to save the uterus and ovaries.

  • If diagnosed at an advanced stage, the uterus can be removed for sake of the treatment while trying to conserve the ovaries.

  • If diagnosed at a stage where radiation is required, the ovaries can be transpositioned to save them from radiation or different techniques of In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be used.

MYTH: CERVICAL CANCER IS ONLY HEREDITARY

Kunnath points out that there is a rare possibility of genetic reasoning which can cause cervical cancer which is called Peutz-Jeghers syndrome.

"But for a common question, the answer is that cervical cancer is not hereditary. Almost 99 percent of cervical cancer is caused by HPV," Kunnath adds.

Carrying a risk factor for cervical cancer through genetics is very rare and it does not mean that a person will eventually develop the disease.

There are two main genetic risk factors for cervical cancer, according to Huntsman Cancer Institute, a cancer hospital and a research centre at Utah.

The research states DICER1 syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS) are two genetic factors that increase the risk of cervical cancer.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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