Understanding cervical cancer and what is the HPV Vaccine
This is a breakdown of cervical cancer and how it can be treated, along with the new HPV vaccine that will soon be administered to young girls in India
The vaccine that protects people, especially women from the Human Papillomavirus infection (HPV) has usually been quite expensive and hence not accessible for the majority of the population. However, recently, it was announced that due to a national immunisation program, all girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years will receive the vaccines over the next three years at their school or at nearby clinics. At present, the quadrivalent vaccine is commercially available at a cost of ₹2,000 per dose. But what does this vaccine protect against?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is a major health concern for women worldwide and understanding its nuances is essential for both prevention and early detection.
It typically starts in the cells lining the cervix and is primarily caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. Most HPV infections resolve on their own, but persistent infections with high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer.
Risk Factors and Causes
Patients often worry about the risk factors associated with cervical cancer. HPV infection is the primary cause, but other factors like smoking, a weakened immune system, multiple sexual partners, and early sexual activity can also increase the risk.
Symptoms and treatment
Patients may be concerned about identifying cervical cancer symptoms. Early-stage cervical cancer may not present any symptoms, but as the disease progresses, symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, and pain during intercourse might occur.
Early-stage detection significantly improves treatment outcomes. To detect the presence of this cancer, one has to undergo cervical cancer screening, specifically, Pap tests or HPV tests. These screenings are essential for early detection. It is also important to encourage patients to undergo routine cervical cancer screenings to nip things in the bud.
The HPV vaccine is a crucial preventive measure. It can protect against certain strains of the virus and significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. It's typically recommended for preteens and young adults., helps in early detection and timely intervention.
For women who are concerned about fertility and how this may affect their pregnancies in the future, they can discuss fertility preservation options with their doctor. This is a conversation that needs to happen before they begin their treatment. Fertility preservation options include egg freezing or embryo banking.
With a population of 511.4 million women, who are between the ages of 15 years and older, and are at high risk of developing cervical cancer, the Indian government has green-lit a new vaccine that is ingenious to the country. In the global market, there are three types of HPV vaccine and they protect against HPV types 16 and 18 - the most common viruses that cause cervical cancer.
The Serum Institute is working on Cervavac, which is India's first indigenous HPV vaccine. It was launched in January 2023 and targets the same four HPV types as Gardasil (another vaccine currently available in the market).