Women over 40 more prone to cervical cancer

March 29th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by admin  

By Shweta Sharma
New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Women over 40, beware. Medical experts say you are more prone to cervical cancer and would do well not to ignore any kind of vaginal pain. Amit Bhargava, senior medical oncologist at Max Healthcare, said that after breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most frequently occurring type of cancer among women who are 40 plus.

“We have over 100 new patients treated in the hospital every year,” he said.

Partha Mukhopadhyay, consultant oncologist at SMH Curie Cancer Center in Shanti Mukand Hospital, said barring metros like Mumbai and Delhi, cervical cancer has the highest incidence among all other cancers in Indian women.

“Overall, the disease occupies the number one spot among women cancer patients in India. It’s the second largest type of cancer among women over 40 only in the urban cancer registries of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore,” Mukhopadhyay told IANS.

Doctors identify a group of more than 100 viruses - technically termed as human “papillomavirus” or “HVP” that infect the normal body cells - as a major cause of cervical cancer. These viruses are transmitted sexually.

Mukhopadhyay explained that “HVP” causes the growth of abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus. “An infection with certain types of ‘HPV’ increases the risk of developing cervical cancer,” he stated.

A striking feature of cervical cancer victims in India is that they are predominantly among women from the lower and middle classes of society.

Mukhopadhyay identified lack of awareness and ignorance about the disease for claiming victims among such women. “Their lack of awareness leads them to overlook the importance of genital hygiene as well as the use of contraceptives.”

Women over 40 should not ignore symptoms like post-coital bleeding, abnormal vaginal bleeding, heavy menstrual discharge and pelvic pain. “Such symptoms may indicate the presence of the cancer and so the person must consult a specialist,” suggested Bhargava.

He said women with such symptoms must immediately undergo a PAP screening. “The PAP test is the best way to detect this cancer at an earliest. There are other tests like the fish test and the cervix biopsy, but those are for a later stage.”

“Here, a small brushing (smear) from the cervix is taken which is examined under a microscope,” he said.

According to Bhargava, “Most cases of cervical cancer can be cured up to Stage 3. Type 2a and 2b have a good amount of cure.”

Said Mukhopadhyay: “Although there is currently no medical cure for human papillomavirus infection, the lesions and warts these viruses cause can be treated.

“Methods commonly used to treat lesions include cryosurgery (freezing that destroys the tissue), LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure, the removal of tissue using a hot wire loop), and conventional surgery.

“Similar treatments may be used for external genital warts. In addition, some drugs may be used to treat external genital warts.”

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