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A Gift of a Cervical Cancer-Free Life

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A Gift of a Cervical Cancer-Free Life

4 min read


Very few types of cancer are preventable. Luckily, the prevention of cervical cancer by vaccination is the new mantra.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At June 10, 2020
Reviewed AtAugust 22, 2023


The belief that women do not indulge in any sort of sexual activity at a young age is a myth. Every passing year has seen an exponential increase in the number of teenagers becoming sexually active at a very young age. According to the National Health and Family Welfare data, the average age for first sexual activity in India is 19 years. Though there is no national body that collects data on premarital sexual activity among Indians, various surveys conducted by some independent bodies suggest that as high as six to 15 percent of adolescents are involved in sexual activity. Almost one in three women admit to having been involved in sexual activity before reaching the age of 18. One in ten girls have had a sexual experience of some kind before even turning 15.

With no proper sexual education in the school curriculum, easy and early access to pornography, rampant illegal child marriages, and in general, the taboo associated with sex in the culture, the situation seems to be only worsening. Other than being of deep moral and ethical concern, the dangers are nothing less than an epidemic. Sexual activity at this tender age brings with it loads of psychological and health-related burdens. This is seen in the form of rising sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents, teenage pregnancies, and illegal abortions. Most sexually transmitted diseases are amenable to cure, but unfortunately, many are lifelong afflictions. One of the most disastrous consequences of early sexual activity, coupled with multiple sexual partners, is cervical cancer.

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

Many people are unaware that 90 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by sexually transmitted Human papillomavirus (HPV). Although the majority of HPV infections do not cause symptoms or disease and resolve spontaneously, persistent infection with high-risk HPV strains may result in cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is responsible for the death of almost 60 to 70 thousand women every year in India. There are 12 high-risk HPV types recognized by the International Agency for Research that can cause cancers in humans, which include types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV infection is also implicated in the causation of genital warts, and cancer of the anus, oropharynx, vulva, vagina, and penis. It is estimated HPV-16 and 18 are the main cause of almost 40 percent of vulvar cancers and all anal cancers.

Can HPV Infections Be Prevented?

Fortunately, HPV infection and consequently, cervical cancer can be prevented. HPV infections decrease through abstinence, older age at first sexual activity, lifetime mutual monogamy, and barrier contraception methods like condoms. None of these methods, however, is guaranteed protection.

After years of research, in 2006 and 2007, two vaccines were introduced in the market against HPV infection:

  1. A quadrivalent vaccine, HPV-9 was directed against HPV-16,18, 6, and 11.

  2. A bivalent vaccine was directed against HPV-16 and 18.

This started a new chapter in the primary prevention of cervical cancer. A new vaccine Gardasil 9 is also approved by the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration), which protects against nine strains of HPV. This is not available in India yet.

When and How to Vaccinate?

It is recommended that cervical cancer vaccines should be administered mainly before the beginning of sexual activity, that is before the initial exposure to HPV infection. Given the decreasing age at first sexual activity, the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) recommend vaccination between the ages of 9 and 12.

People may think that 11 years of age is too early to vaccinate as many children do not become sexually active for several more years, but vaccinating preteens helps to take the guesswork out of figuring out when a child will become sexually active. The vaccine also is more effective in immunizing against HPV when it is given to younger girls. Girls who are vaccinated before the age of 15 may need only two vaccine shots in contrast to older girls who need a standard three-shot vaccination.

The Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Immunization (IAPCOI) recommends offering the HPV vaccine to all females who can afford the vaccine. Australia has been one of the leading countries in implementing public health programs for the prevention of HPV, being among the first to introduce a National HPV Vaccination Programme for girls and young women. More than 50 countries already have it in their national immunization schedule. The vaccine is given as a deep intramuscular injection, generally three shots at 0, 2, and 6 months. The vaccine is so far not recommended for boys in India.

Girls aged 13 to 26 who have not received it earlier can also take the vaccination. The vaccination can also be beneficial for sexually active females to a certain extent because some of the sexually active young women are usually infected with all the HPV types that can be prevented by the vaccines. Therefore, most young women could still get protection by getting vaccinated. For women aged more than 26 years, screening and early detection by PAP test or PAP smear is the key to prevention, though some studies do suggest the benefit of vaccination even up to the age of 40 years.

What Are the Safety Concerns of Vaccination?

There have been no serious safety concerns associated with this vaccine while studying thousands of individuals around the globe. However, mild pain at the site of injection, fever, dizziness, fainting, and nausea may occur rarely.


As care providers, doctors must emphasize that the primary goal of vaccination is to help prevent cervical cancer. It should not give a false sense of security against all sexually transmitted infections. It is also not a replacement for periodic screening with a PAP smear. Hence, screening programs should continue as per recommendations to detect non-HPV-related cervical cancers, which are around 10 percent.

Safe sex should be taught to adolescents, and sex education made mandatory in schools. Laws against child marriage should be more strict, and cervical cancer screening by PAP smear should be made widespread by government programs and available in all hospitals at a very low cost. These practices will help in decreasing the disease burden in the country.

Everyone loves their daughters, mothers, and sisters; give them the gift of a cervical cancer-free life. Also, pledge to vaccinate all the daughters before their 13th birthday.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can a Patient With Cervical Cancer Live a Long Life?

Around 60 out of 100 i.e 60 percent of patients with cervical cancer can survive with cancer for five years or more after diagnosis and around 50 women out of 100 i.e 50 percent of patients can survive with cancer for ten years or more after diagnosis.


What Is the Life Expectancy of a Cervical Cancer Patient?

The 5-year relative survival rate is 92 percent in case of an early-stage diagnosis of cervical cancer. If cervical cancer is detected after it has metastasized or spread to nearby organs, lymph nodes, or tissues, the 5-year relative survival rate is around 60 percent.


Can Cervical Cancer Be Cured Permanently?

Cervical cancer is usually viewed as curable, especially if it is diagnosed when the cancer is in an early stage. This disease develops in the cervix or the passage joining the vagina to the lower section of the uterus.


How to Keep the Cervix Cancer Free?

The most essential thing to keep the cervix cancer free is to get vaccinated against Human papillomavirus (HPV). Women require regular screening tests and must visit the doctor if their screening test results are abnormal. Ninety- three percent of cervical cancers can be prevented.


What Are the Chances of Cervical Cancer Recurrence?

Recurrence occurs in one-third of women treated for cervical cancer during follow-up. The relapse usually occurs in the first two to three years after treatment. Most of the time, cervical cell changes or abnormal cells do not recur after treatment.


Can Stage 1 Cervical Cancer Recur?

Around 95 percent of patients with stage 1 cervical cancer can survive without any sign of cancer recurrence ten years after surgery or radiation therapy. Less than five percent of patients with stage I cervical cancer might show recurrence.


Can Cervical Cancer Be Considered a Severe Problem?

Cervical cancer is considered to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for women in America. With the increase in the Pap test, rates of cervical cancer have reduced significantly. During a Pap test, the doctor collects cervical cells for microscopic examination for the diagnosis of precancerous or cancerous lesions.


Is Cervical Cancer 100 % Curable if Treated at an Early Stage?

When diagnosed at an early stage the 5-year survival rate for patients with cervical cancer is 92 percent. When cervical cancer is diagnosed after it can spread to nearby organs, tissues, or regional lymph nodes, the 5-year relative survival rate is around 60 percent.


What Are the Signs That Indicate That Cervical Cancer Is Coming Back?

The Signs that indicate that cervical cancer Is coming back:
- Bleeding from the vagina between periods or after sex.
- Pain after sexual intercourse.
- Discharge from the vagina.
- Pelvic pain (pain in your lower abdomen).
- Leg swelling (lymphoedema can also cause leg swelling).


Can the Cells of Cervical Cancer Disappear Completely?

The cells of cervical cancer can disappear completely and can usually be cured with surgery or a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In the case of very early cervical cancers, it is possible to remove the entire cancerous tissue with a large loop excision or cone biopsy.


What Is the Major Cause of Cervical Cancer?

The major cause of cervical cancer is certain types of long-lasting human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that spreads from one person to another during sex. The risk of HPV infection is higher in people who become sexually active before age eighteen and individuals with multiple sexual partners.


How Can Cancer Cells Be Killed in the Cervix?

Cancer cells are killed in the cervix through radiation therapy that uses high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is used along with chemotherapy as the primary treatment for cervical cancers. Radiation can be performed after surgery if there is an increased risk that cancer will recur.


What Is Considered the Best Treatment for Cervical Cancer?

The best treatment for cervical cancer surgery is often the main treatment for cervical cancer, particularly if the cancer is diagnosed early. There are several surgeries used to treat cervical cancer. Various surgeries are performed to remove the part of the cervix if the cancer is very small.


Where Does Cervical Cancer Spread Primarily?

Cervical cancer can spread mainly to the following regions:
- It can spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis.
- It can also spread to the vagina, rectum, bladder, or other tissues near the uterus and vagina.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Deepali Raina
Dr. Deepali Raina

Obstetrics and Gynecology


cervical cancer vaccinepap testcervical cancerhpv vaccine
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