Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India, next only to breast. India sees the highest number of deaths due to cervical cancer as compared to any other country in the world. However, the good news is that combined efforts of screening and vaccination can help us eliminate this problem and make India cervical cancer free by 2070, as published in a global study.
PAP smear, as we all know, is a very effective screening method for detecting cervical cancer at the very onset, thus helping in timely intervention and treatment. It is recommended for women aged 21-65, with a frequency of 3 years. With a combination of HPV testing, the period can be prolonged to 5 years.
HPV-Human papilloma virus infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide. Most sexually active men and women will get infected with HPV at some point of time in their lives. Usually the infection remains asymptomatic and resolves on its own. But if persistent, in combination with other factors, plays a very important role in development of cervical cancer.
Therefore, the need of a vaccine was felt that could provide lifelong immunity against HPV infection, and help arrest the rise in cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls above the age of 11 years, before they become sexually active and get exposed to HPV infection, until the age of 45 years. There are 2 vaccines available in the market today, Gardasil (tetravalent- protection against 4 strains of HPV) and Cervarix (bivalent-protection against 2 strains).The vaccination cannot be taken during pregnancy, so the vaccine shots should be planned accordingly.
Remember, this vaccine is our strongest bet against cervical cancer. So, be a part of eliminating this enemy by getting yourself vaccinated and screened regularly. Talk to your gynecologist today and let her guide you according to your age.