Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in Indian women. Last year alone, 3.4 lakh cervical cancer cases were reported across the country. Despite this, there's been an alarming lack of awareness about how cervical cancer is caused and what people can do to prevent it from occurring.
Cervical cancer is primary caused by varients of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that are spread through sexual contact. While most people's immune systems prevent the virus from doing any real harm, in some cases, the virus survives in people for years and can eventually result in cervical cancer.
High risk varients of HPV pose a risk to everyone and in addition to cervical cancer can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, mouth, vagina, vuvla and even the throat.
The best way to protect yourself from HPV and cervical cancer is through regular screening and vaccination. The Indian-made variant of the HPV vaccine is called Cervavac and is available for approximately ₹2000 per dose. The vaccine targets the 4 highest-risk variants of HPV and can be taken by anyone between the ages of 9-45, although it is recommended you take the vaccine before you are sexually active.
While there's still a long way to go, the Indian government and the public as a whole have started to become a little bit more aware about HPV and its link to cervical cancer and have even started campaigns and initiatives to help fight its prevalence.
During the announcement for the 2024 Interim Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid out a plan that aims to encourage girls between the ages of 9-14 to seek out the vaccine. There are also homegrown organizations and individuals such as Dr Tanaya Narendra and the Her Adhikaar Foundation, who've been instrumental in bringing awareness and action to a cause that's been otherwise ignored. A recent petition by Her Adhikaar asked the government to include the HPV vaccine in the national immunization protocol in order to make it both accessible and affordable to all.
Here's more from Homegrown: