A survey has revealed high prevalence of viruses causing cervical cancer among the city’s women, underscoring the need for females above 30 to regularly undergo the diagnostic test for the disease.
Around 6.5 per cent of the 12,000 women studied by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute were found to have been affected by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), an umbrella term for more than 100 viruses that cause cervical cancer.
The women are in the age group of 30-60 years and most of them are working.
The study, Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Initiative, continued for four years.
“The study showed that all the women found to be carrying the virus have no manifestation of cancer,” said Partha Basu, the head of the gynaecological oncology department at CNCI who led the research team.
“At least 20 per cent of the women are in the high risk group and can develop cervical cancer after 10-12 years. In the others, the viruses may die naturally as the body’s immune system fight them. We have undertaken a project to screen more women, treat them and spread awareness.”
According to doctors, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus. “The virus is sexually transmitted to a female through a male partner. Multiple partners increase chances of infection,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay.
A Papanicolaou test (known as Pap Smear) can detect pre-malignant and malignant processes in the ectocervix and help prevent cervical cancer.
But the study revealed that only a few women go for the test regularly. Experts said a woman after 30 should undergo Pap Smear at least once a year.
At most clinics and hospitals, 80-90 per cent of the women suffering from cervical cancer show up at stage III, when curative treatment is no longer possible.
“If detected at an early stage, cervical cancer can be cured,” said Mukhopadhyay.
Doctors said smoking aggravated the problem in women. “Smoking affects local immunity in the cervix which allows HPV to persist,” said Basu.