New Delhi: Did you know that unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge could be a warning sign of cervical cancer? India accounts for nearly one-fourth of the world’s Cervical Cancer deaths, with 60,078 deaths and 96,922 new cases in 2018. This largely preventable disease is the second most common cause of Cancer mortality among Indian women, Sushma Tomar, Consultant Obstetrics And Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital Kalyan tells IANSlife.
As per the Indian Journal of Medical Pediatric Oncology, in India, Cervical Cancer contributes to approximately 6-29 per cent of all cancers in women. The age-adjusted incidence rate of Cervical Cancer varies widely among registries; highest is 23.07/1,00,000 in Mizoram state and the lowest is 4.91/1,00,000 in Dibrugarh district.
While cervical cancer is quite preventable, the reason for the higher incidence is lack of awareness among women. Moreover, when diagnosed early, Cervical Cancer can be successfully treated and often cured. Therefore, in addition to having regular Pap tests performed for screening purposes, a woman should learn to recognize possible warning signs so that she can bring them to the attention of her physician, Dr Tomar emphasises.
She lists down 10 warning signs of cervical cancer:
– Itching or burning sensations in the vagina
– Low back or abdominal pain
– Unexplained fatigue
– Bladder symptoms such as Haematuria (blood in the urine), Dysuria (painful urination) and/or frequent or urgent urination
– Abdominal bloating
– Foul smelling vaginal discharge
– Leg oedema (fluid retention)
– Lower abdominal pain
– Rectal symptoms such as bleeding from the rectum, loose motion, or rectal pain
– Lumber pain due to Pyelonephritis (inflammation of the Kidney) or ureteric obstruction
“Most likely, these signs often don’t register as something important simply because they are so common. For instance, many women experience abdominal bloating caused by hormonal fluctuations during their menstrual cycles. Post-menopausal women often report that they feel a need to urinate more frequently than they did when they were younger. Also, most women juggle multiple responsibilities that leave them feeling extremely tired from time to time,” the doctor adds.
Risk factors that can cause cervical cancer: While there is no definitive way to determine what causes any type of Cancer, there are some risk factors that can increase your chances of developing Cervical Cancer. Tomar highlights the following risk factors that can help you make healthy choices:
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the leading risks in developing Cervical Cancer. While there are over 100 types of HPV infections, the HPV16 and HPV18 strains are the most associated with Cervical Cancers
Smoking – chemicals found in Tobacco can put women who smoke at increased risk for Cervical Cancer. Second hand smoke may also play a role
Low immune system – women who have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) may not be able to effectively fight HPV infections, thus putting them at risk of developing Cervical Cancer at a faster rate
Lack of access to healthcare – women who may not have access to regular health care and Cancer screenings could be at high risk
Family history – having a family member who has been diagnosed with Cervical Cancer is a risk factor
The key to the early detection of Cervical Cancer is for each woman to become familiar with her own body and aware of what is normal for her. Therefore, a woman should pay close attention to the timing, duration and heaviness of her menstrual periods, and whether she experiences back or abdominal pain on a regular basis.
Finally, it might be tempting to search the Internet for information about cervical cancer symptoms, but it is important to proceed with caution and be aware that there is a lot of misinformation out there. Do not be afraid and consult your doctor for proper guidance and support.