It’s a vaccine that can stall the onset of the second most common form of cancer among women in India — cervical cancer. Much discussed at the 13th International Congress on Infectious Diseases, currently being held in Kuala Lumpur, it was launched in the United States two years ago, but has yet to reach Indian shores.
The Human Pappliomavirus Vaccine (HPV), however, does not come cheap. Three doses have to be taken, each costing $ 150 ( Rs. 6000). The efficacy rate is around 70 per cent.
“The chances of success of the vaccine is about 70 per cent. The rest depends on the individual’s food habits, sexual activity and tobacco use,” said Dr A B D. Aziz Yahya, gynaecological oncologist, Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre, Malaysia. “So far, no side effects have been observed."
More than 130,000 new cases—roughly one-fourth of the global total— of cervical cancer are reported in India every year. Only breast cancer has a higher incidence. An estimated 74,000 Indian women die annually from the disease.
India’s National Cancer Control Program emphasises the importance of early detection and treatment. But with no organized screening programme, the disease is usually detected and treated at a late stage. A vaccine would obviate the need for any such detection at all.