Cervical Cancer Kills One Woman Every Seven Minutes In India: Report

New Delhi: India bears one-fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer and the highest number of deaths. in 2023, 123,000 Indian women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 80,000 of them died. These tragedies are unacceptable because, unlike most cancers that lack a clear cause, cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus and there exists a vaccine to prevent HPV infections.

Every seven minutes, one woman dies of cervical cancer in India. Yet, screening rates remain abysmal, the HPV vaccine available for more than two decades is yet to be included in India’s free vaccination programme, and there is very little awareness about the disease, according to a report in Scroll.in.

Mridu Gupta, who heads a non-profit for cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection believes it to be a gendered crisis. “If it were a cancer that affected men and killed one man every seven minutes, do you think it would take so long for the [HPV] vaccine and the screening to be available for all of them?” Women’s health is simply not backed by political will, and there is no urgent effort to increase awareness,” she told Scroll.in.

Women with cancer also face more stigma, neglect and abandonment than men.

Women with cancer also face more stigma, neglect and abandonment than men. That is why we at Behenbox, sought to explore how gendered cancer care for women is and the additional barriers women face in a three-part series.

Visits to cancer centres in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Raipur revealed that India lags behind in cervical cancer screening. It urgently needs to fill certain systemic gaps, start the universal HPV vaccination programme and take some lessons from the robust cervical cancer screening programme of neighbouring Bangladesh, Scroll.in reported.

An HPV infection is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause for cervical cancer. “Many women will get infected with it but only a few actually go on to developing cervical cancer,” Gauravi Mishra, Professor, Preventive Oncology at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, told the outlet.

Like in other countries, the prevalence of HPV infection in India is about 7%. But most women who are infected will clear the infection on their own with their own immune system and without any symptoms. Some who do not, may develop precancerous lesions in a few years and some of them may progress to cervical cancer over 10-15 years. If women are screened regularly, they will be detected when they are still in the precancerous stage which is completely curable.

In 2020, the World Health Assembly set a 90-70-90 target for the elimination of cervical cancer in its 194 member states – 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15, 70% of women screened twice using a high-performance test by the age of 35 and then by 45, and 90% with pre-cancer treated and 90% with invasive cancer managed. If all countries meet this target by 2030, cervical cancer could be eliminated by the next century.

 

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