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Demystifying Myths and Facts Surrounding Cervical Cancer

By Dr. Runu Sharma in Cancer Care / Oncology , Gynecologic Oncology

Jan 29 , 2024 | 3 min read

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month serves as a crucial reminder to shed light on a disease that affects individuals worldwide. Cervical cancer, often preventable and treatable, has a direct link to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Most cases are caused by persistent infection with high-risk types of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus. The cervix is particularly vulnerable to HPV-related changes, making regular screenings and vaccinations essential components of individuals' health.

Also, Read - Cervical Cancer: Understanding the Basics

HPV and Cervical cancer

HPV is a group of viruses transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. While most HPV infections clear on their own, persistent infections may increase the risk of cervical cancer. HPV vaccinations, a groundbreaking advancement in preventive healthcare, target specific high-risk strains and significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Also, Read - Cervical Cancer & Its Prevention by Vaccination

Types of HPV Vaccines

Currently, three types of HPV vaccines include:

  1. Bivalent HPV Vaccine (Cervarix):  Cervarix is a bivalent vaccine designed to protect against HPV types 16 and 18. These two HPV types are among the most common high-risk strains associated with cervical cancer.
  2. Quadrivalent HPV Vaccine (Gardasil 4): Gardasil 4 is a quadrivalent vaccine targeting HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. This vaccine provides protection against low-risk types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts, as well as high-risk types 16 and 18 linked to cervical cancer.
  3. 9-Valent HPV Vaccine (Gardasil 9): Gardasil 9 is a 9-valent vaccine designed to protect against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. This vaccine expands the coverage to additional high-risk HPV types, providing broader protection against cervical and other HPV-related cancers.

Also, Read - Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Key Points

  • These vaccines are crucial for preventing HPV infections, which may lead to cervical and other cancers.
  • They are administered as a series of shots over several months, typically starting in adolescence or early adulthood.
  • HPV vaccines are most effective before exposure to the virus through sexual activity.
  • Consultation with doctors is essential to determine the most suitable vaccine based on individual health considerations and regional recommendations.

As research and developments in vaccine technology progress, new formulations and types of HPV vaccines may emerge, emphasizing the importance of staying informed about the latest recommendations.

Dispelling Myths and Facts

Myth 1: Only promiscuous individuals get HPV.

HPV is incredibly common, and anyone who is sexually active can contract it.

Myth 2: HPV always leads to cervical cancer.

Most HPV infections clear on their own, and only persistent infections pose an increased risk.

Myth 3: HPV vaccines are only for teenagers.

While most effective before sexual activity begins, HPV vaccines offer benefits even for those who have been sexually active.

Myth 4: Pap smears prevent cervical cancer.

Pap smears detect abnormalities early, but HPV vaccines provide primary prevention.

Myth 5: Cervical cancer is not common.

It ranks among the most common cancers in women globally.

Myth 6: Only women need to worry about HPV.

HPV can affect all genders, and vaccination is recommended for all individuals from age 9-65.

Myth 7: Cervical cancer has no symptoms.

Symptoms may include abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, or unusual discharge.

Myth 8: Only individuals with multiple sexual partners get cervical cancer.

HPV transmission can occur even with a single sexual partner.

Myth 9: Condoms fully protect against HPV.

While condoms reduce the risk, they don't eliminate it due to skin-to-skin transmission.

Myth 10: Cervical cancer is a death sentence.

Early detection and treatment significantly improve survival rates.

Myth 11: Older women can't get HPV.

HPV can affect individuals of any age.

Myth 12: Vaccinated individuals don't need Pap smears.

Both vaccination and regular screenings provide comprehensive protection.

Myth 13: Natural remedies cure HPV.

There's no cure, but vaccines prevent infection and related cancers.

Myth 14: Only individuals with a family history are at risk.

While family history can contribute, anyone with HPV exposure is at risk.

Myth 15: Cervical cancer is untreatable.

Treatment options include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, especially in the early stages.

Also, Read - Common Questions Regarding Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month serves as a platform to dispel myths, raise awareness, and encourage preventive measures. By understanding the relationship between cervical cancer and HPV, embracing revolutionary vaccines, and dispelling common misconceptions, we can empower individuals to prioritize their health and contribute to the global effort to eliminate cervical cancer. Regular screenings, vaccination, and open conversations about sexual health are pivotal in safeguarding individuals and promoting a future free from the burden of cervical cancer.