Let Us Save Ourselves From Cervical Cancer
Nearly 72,000 women die in India every year due to cervical cancer. If it goes undetected and untreated, cervical cancer can be life-threatening. We share with you the personal accounts of two cervical cancer survivors and how they have become staunch advocates of the HPV vaccine, starting with their own family and daughters.
A specific type of virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) causes almost all of the cases of cervical cancer. Your doctor can screen for this virus and precancerous cells, and suggest treatments that can prevent cervical cancer from occurring. Unfortunately, cervical cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it is in advanced stages. Women often mistake the warnings for irregular menstrual cycle or a urinary tract infection.
1 - Survivor story of Asha Garg
I am 69 years old. I had been enjoying my golden years of retired life with my husband, son and his family.
Then a year and a half ago the alarm bells rang. Like every other morning, I woke up early and went to the washroom to freshen up. There I was horrified to find myself bleeding – not just a drop or two, but I saw a pool of blood. I realized I was bleeding heavily. Somehow I managed to drag myself out and called my daughter-in-law. She panicked and without any delay rushed me to the hospital.
A Pap smear, followed by battery of tests including a biopsy, was done. The reports were not good. They confirmed our fear. I was diagnosed with Stage III Cervical cancer. The MRI scan found a tumor in my vaginal wall going down to the cervix.
The doctor advised 28 sittings of radiation followed by four low dose of chemotherapy. The whole treatment was both emotionally and physically exhausting for me and my family. My last chemo was in January 2016. Since then I have been cancer free.
I have a very positive attitude towards life, which I guess helped me recover from depression. Now I have joined several cancer help groups where I share my journey from state of despair to a state of victory. I see my oncologist every 3 months. I take life as it comes. I enjoy every moment with my family and friends.
Learning from my own cancer and suffering, I would strongly advise every woman, including young girls, to get Pap smear done regularly. I have got my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter vaccinated.
(Name changed on request)
2 - Survivor Story of Davlatova Gulshod from Uzbekistan
I am 42 years old. I have come to Fortis Hospital, Gurgaon for treatment. I have 3 children - 2 daughters and a son. I had been leading a normal life looking after my home and family. And then suddenly one fine day to discover that you have cervical cancer! Out of the blue…. And most unexpectedly.
That’s what happened to me. I had no symptoms and regular menstrual cycles with no irregularities. Then I noticed I was beginning to feel tired frequently and suffered low back pain. But as is the way of most women, these symptoms were ignored. The alarm bells rang when I began to bleed heavily.
When the tests were done, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was advised chemotherapy and radiotherapy – the standard cancer treatment recommendations. I preferred coming to India for the treatment. My last chemo got over successfully recently and I am cancer free now.
I had been counseled by the CAPED team, and I realized how easy and important it is to get screened early in life. I was not aware of the HPV vaccine and have promised to get my teenage daughters vaccinated against cervical cancer.
A simple Pap test can detect pre-cancerous stages anytime during the gestation period. The main purpose of screening with the Pap test is to detect abnormal cells that may develop into cancer if left untreated. The Pap test needs to be done once in 3 years and a cervical cancer specific test which is the HPVDNA test along with the Pap test needs to be done once in 5 years only. A HPV Vaccine is recommended for girls of 11 years to women of 45 years. Ideally, it needs to be administered before girls get sexually active.
Contributed by CAPED - Cervical Cancer Awareness, Prevention and Early Detection Trust