India launches first cervical cancer vaccine; why it's important to get jabbed
India's first indigenously developed vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is all set to be available later this year. Here's why it's important for girls to get jabbed.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer amongst women worldwide and in India, it is the second most common cancer among women. Cervical cancer is caused by chronic infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted virus. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the cervix — the lowermost part of uterus. One can prevent getting this virus by taking vaccination. If the vaccine is given to girls before sexual exposure between 9-14 years, it is more than 99% effective in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine also protects against genital warts and some other cancers also like anal, vulval vaginal, penile, oropharyngeal cancers as well some cancers of head and neck. (Also read: India to launch indigenous vaccine against cervical cancer today)
Trials have shown that HPV vaccines are nearly 100% effective in preventing cervical cancers caused by highest HPV viruses. These vaccines also provide protection against vulvar and vaginal cancers.
Meanwhile, India's first indigenously developed vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, CERVAVAC, is all set to be available later this year, costing between ₹200-400 a shot. CERVAVAC will be effective against at least four variants of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). While the vaccines must be given to both young boys and girls, chances of getting this cancer are more among women.
HOW MANY WOMEN IN INDIA SUFFERING FROM OR PRONE TO CERVICAL CANCER
"According to latest statistics, every year in India about 1,20,000 women are diagnosed with Cervical cancer and about 67,000 women die from the disease every year. India has a population of about 400 billion women, aged 15 years and older who are at a risk of cervical cancer," says Dr Nivedita Kaul, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital, Delhi.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER, WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer is caused by chronic infection with human papillomavirus which is a sexually transmitted virus.
"There are about hundred different types of human papillomavirus virus but only certain types cause cervical cancer like HPV 16 and HPV 18. A woman with cervical cancer, complaints of unusual or irregular bleeding which occurs in between periods or after sexual intercourse. The patient may also experience foul smelling blood stain, vaginal discharge or it could be pelvic pee," says Dr Kaul.
"Most of sexually active women acquire this infection but it resolves spontaneously but persistent viral colonization happens in about 20% women in whom it can cause precancerous lesions on cervix which can progress to cancer if left untreated," says Dr. Nisha Kapoor Director and HOD Obstetrics Gynaecology and advanced gynae Laparoscopy Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad.
ABOUT INDIA'S NEW CERVICAL CANCER VACCINE
Three types of vaccines are available for cervical cancer - Cervarix, gardasil and the latest Gardasil 9. Serum institute of India is already making its own vaccine Cervavac and has got approval from govt to roll it out by this year end.
"The Indian vaccine is going to be a game changer to bring down the incidence of cervical cancer because of its much lower cost. Two doses spaced at 6 months are enough in 9-14 years age group whereas three dose regimen (0, 1-2, 6 months) are recommended in age group 15-26 years," says Dr Kapoor.
PREVENTION OF CERVICAL CANCER
Dr Nivedita Kaul on tips to prevent cervical cancer:
- Regular screening by Papanicolaou (PAP) Test: This is a test where in a doctor performs an internal examination and uses a special tool to scrap or brush the cervix to remove the cells from the cervix for testing. If these cells from the cervix show pre-cancer stage. The pre-cancer stage can be treated before it progresses to Cervical cancer. It is recommended that every woman who is sexually active should have a test in every 3 years.
- Getting vaccination for cervical cancer: Cervical cancer vaccines protect against infection with human papillomavirus types which most commonly leads to cancer. These vaccines can only work to prevent HPV infection. They cannot treat an HPV infection on the cervix which is already present. That is why cervical cancer vaccines should be given before a woman is exposed to HPV or before the onset of sexual activity. It is also important to know that no vaccine can provide complete protection against all cancer causing HPV virus. So even after vaccination, routine PAP Test Is important.