Saturday, July 20, 2024

Health :HPV can cause cervical cancer: Vaccine offers hope

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Cervical cancer is the most common cancers among women aged 15 to 44. In September 2022, MSD Pharmaceuticals launched the gender-neutral HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 in India, as a cure to the vaccine.Tanisha Saxena spoke to experts to bring a detailed report on the benefits of taking the jab and more.

Every nine minutes, one woman loses her battle to cervical cancer in India. As per a report sheet by the ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer, India has a population of 483.5 million women ages 15 and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. In fact, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in India, and the third most common cancer among men.

According to Epidemiology of cervical cancer with special focus on India, published by National centre for Biotechnology Information, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women aged 15 to 44. About 5.0% of women in the general population are estimated to harbour a cervical HPV-16/18 infection at any given time.

The cure is a vaccine. In September 2022, MSD Pharmaceuticals launched the gender-neutral HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 in India. It also launched a campaign called “Don’t Get Caught by HPV,” featuring Sayani Gupta, VJ Bani, and Raja Kumari.

Currently, there are two types of HPV vaccines available in India. Both of them are licensed globally. The first one is a quadrivalent vaccine called Gardasil, while the second is a bivalent one by the name Cervarix. Both these vaccines are manufactured by recombinant DNA technology – a method in which non-infectious VLPs consisting of the HPV L1 protein is produced. Apart from MSD, GSK, Innovax, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SII) and Walvax are also manufacturing these vaccines in India.

Speaking to The Pioneer, actress Sayani Gupta asserted, “The growing awareness about HPV is something that’s extremely important and needed. #DontGetCaughtByHPV is a campaign that everyone should support. That’s why the three of us — Bani, Raja Kumari, and I — came together for the campaign. People should be informed, and I am glad that awareness is spreading now.”

Wondering what HPV cancer is? Doctor Vasundara Cheepurupalli, senior consultant gynaecologist, robotic and laparoscopic surgeon, cosmetic gynecologist, and obstetrician at KIMS hospital in Hyderabad, is here with us to explain. She said, “Cervical cancer is the moth of the uterus. So, the uterus has different body parts, and the mouth of the uterus is called the cervix. The cancer that happens to this part is called cervical cancer, and the cancer that happens to the body of the cervix is actually uterine cancer. There are other parts, like fallopian tube cancer. Among these, cervical cancer is the most common cancer.

However, endometrial cancer has recently increased in comparison to cervical cancer.”
Stating the reason, Doctor Vasundara further added, “The reason is that the cause of the cervical cancer is the immunocompromised state of the women.That is, if the patient is susceptible to any of the diseases, especially in conditions like HIV, diabetes, and other immunocompromising conditions, then it further increases the risk of other infections like HPV. It predominates or multiplies in a particular area and leads to cell disproportion and abnormal growth of the particular cell. It eventually leads to cervical cancer.

Apart from having a compromised immune system, having multiple sexual partners, a long reproductive life, or having repeated vaginal infectionsIn India, cervical cancer is most common because of various factors, including poor hygiene, a lack of sex education, and socioeconomic status. The best mode of prevention is vaccination.”

Another thing is that in India, talking about sex or subjects related to physical intimacy is considered taboo and thus remains “shh..”. Actor-poet Priya Malik shares her observation: “I believe that the shyness and reluctance to talk about sex in general comes from a deep-rooted culture that we all are part of and that actually starts in our first school, which is our family and home.

The way our parents talk about sex and biology, and then how the rest of society believes in it, including schools, colleges, mainstream literature, and mainstream media that we consume, because after all, we are a part of the social construct that we live in, but I believe it all starts at home. The day these conversations become non-taboo in our families, that’s the day things will start to change.”

The human papillomavirus is a group of more than 100 viruses. While vaccination is a potent solution, many people are apprehensive about it. “HPV vaccination provides safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against the HPV infections that most commonly cause cancer,” explained Doctor Rekha Arya, MBBS, MD, radiation oncologist (cancer specialist), and Consultant Yashoda Cancer Hospital Delhi NCR. “Because the vaccine is recommended for children as young as nine years old, many parents are concerned and in a quandary about whether or not to administer it to their children.

This is primarily because of the lack of sexual awareness and the bubble that we live in, where nothing should be done to our sexuality. In India, the age recommendation is from 9 to 45. While the vaccine should be administered as early as possible, or, to be precise, before an individual becomes sexually active, However, in India, we can extend this age up to 45 simply because this might protect us from other strains.”

Stories from cervical cancer survivors are indeed heartbreaking and tough to even talk about. However, Delhi-based homemaker Deepti Sharma, 62, agreed to share bits from her story of HPV cancer diagnosis and winning the battle: “It was 2019 when I started feeling intense pain and discomfort in the pelvic area. One day the bleeding just didn’t stop, and I rushed to my gynaecologist in South Delhi.

After scanning, the results shattered me and my family. It was a tough fight, but I am truly grateful to God that I defeated it. But when I heard about the HPV vaccine, there were a lot of thoughts about it. The feeling of regret that I didn’t know about it, but relief for the children and women who must get vaccinated. Life is fragile, and we must be informed and aware of our health.”

But is that all, or are there any changes we should make in our day-to-day lives to prevent HPV cancer? “HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most commonly transmitted viral infection of the reproductive tract. It is the main cause of all cervical cancer in women.

Anyone who is sexually active may get this virus. However, it still gets neglected because it may show no symptoms at first but can still spread through skin-to-skin contact during any course of sexual activity. The good news is that it is preventable through daily habits and a healthy lifestyle. Having a strong immune system, using condoms, getting vaccinated, and getting regularly tested can help prevent HPV and other related viruses,” concluded fitness expert Gunjan Taneja.

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