Cervical Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and HPV Vaccination

Cervical Cancer Image

Cervical Cancer Image

Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer affecting a large majority of women all across the world. In fact, it has become the second most common cancer after breast cancer in women worldwide. In India and other developing countries, it has become one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among women. Cervical cancer occurs early and usually affects a woman at a productive period in her life.


What causes Cervical Cancer?

Human Papillomavirus, HPV infection can cause abnormal cells to grow on the cervix leading to this type of cancer. The HPV virus is also one of the main causes for vaginal, anal, mouth and throat cancers in women. The factors that contribute to the growth of the HPV virus in women are as follows:
• It is said that women who smoke have more chances of HPV to persist in the body.
• Having sex with many sexual partners has a higher risk of contracting different types of HPV. But a woman who is sexually active with even one partner can also suffer from cervical cancer.
• There are chances of getting this cancer when you have your first intercourse at an early age. Also, risk is more at early childbirth.
• Women with genital herpes are also more likely to develop cervical cancer.
• Being on the contraceptive pill for a long duration is also connected with a higher risk of cervical cancer. The risk is more after stopping the pill.
• Weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of genital HPV infection.
• Unhygienic way of living, especially when not keeping the private parts of women hygienic and clean is also prone to HPV infection. This is further associated with using public toilets.


There are some non-specific symptoms that may be common for any kind of vaginal infection like as vaginal discharge with a bad odour, or tinged with blood, and lower abdomen pain. Later, symptoms like pain and bleeding during intercourse, weight loss, etc. may develop.

Some Methods of Prevention

• To remain clean and stay clean.
• To clean the vagina properly after every nature’s call and an intercourse.
• Men should use condoms during intercourse though it cannot assure 100% protection.
• To avoid using public toilets as much as possible.
• To go for Pap tests at regular intervals as the HPV infection can be detected only through Pap tests. In many cases, the infection develops into the cancer as it remains undetected.
• The last but not the least and the most important of all to have the HPV vaccine.

HPV Vaccination for Prevention

There are almost 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of women and in many cases, there are no symptoms. But some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. HPV vaccination is recommended for girls in the age group starting from 10 years to mid-40s, till the time the woman is in her regular menstruation cycle. For adult women, three vaccine shots within a span of 6 months are recommended. However, women who are sexually active may benefit from this vaccination but not to a 100% preventive level. This is because the vaccines are less effective in prevention of HPV infection for those women who are already being exposed to one or more HPV types through sexual intercourse. The vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women. The vaccination is more effective before a girl becomes sexually active. That is why, it is highly recommended for girls in the age group 10 to 12 years should have this vaccine, two vaccines in a period of 6 months so as to develop a healthy immune response before being sexually active with another person. Even boys at age 11 or 12 years should get the vaccine.

Types of HPV Vaccines

There are three HPV vaccines:
• Gardasil
• Gardasil 9
• Cervarix
The first two HPV vaccines protect against not only HPV infection but also genital warts and anal cancer in both females and males. Boys are also recommended to get one of these HPV vaccines to prevent genital warts and anal cancer. Girls can get any of the three vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.

Side Effects

All the three HPV vaccines have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These vaccines have been approved safe and effective by the CDC. The vaccines have been tried and tested on many people around the world and no such cases of serious side effects or serious concerns have been reported. Some common but mild side effects are pain in the area where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. In March 2014, more than 60 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the U.S.

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