Dr. Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha
By Dr Tanushree Jain, MS, MCH
National Cancer Institute, Nagpur
On 03 June 2020
Five main types of cancer affect woman’s reproductive organs: cervix,ovary,uterus,vagina, and vulva. As a group, they are referred to as gynecological cancers.
Almost one fourth of cancers in Indian women are gynecological cancers. The commonest being cervical cancer. More women in India die from cervical cancer than in any other country.
Each cancer is unique, with different signs, symptoms, and risk factors.
Unfortunately, screening test (PAP smear, HPV testing, VIA/VILI) to detect precancerous disease or early stage cancer is available only for cervical cancer. For other gynecological cancers, the only way is to recognize the early warning signs and consult a Gynecologic Oncologist.
For women 21 to 29 years old, pap smear can be performed once every three years.
For women aged 30 to 65, pap screening alone can be taken every three years or HPV testing along with pap smear screening (called cotesting) every five years.
Consultation with a Gynecologic Oncologist also becomes important for females who have multiple risk factors (obesity, women who never had children, HIV, multiple sexual partners) significant family history of cancer.
Up to 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases may be hereditary. We can identify women who are at highest risk of ovarian cancer by having them answer a few simple questions about their personal and family history. Once those individuals who carry such high risk mutations are identified, cancer risk can be reduced by regular consultation with screening tests and risk-reducing measures.
HPV infection is one of the preventable cause of female precancerous lesions. A vaccine is now available that can be offered to young females preferably in their teens.
Almost half of all endometrial cancer cases are related to obesity and lack of physical activity. By improving our diet and adding 30 minutes of exercise every day, we could cut the rates of endometrial cancer in half.
Therefore, the ways to protect oneself from the development of gynecological cancers include: