Eight women die of cervical cancer every hour in India, said Dr Narendra K Bhalla, Senior Consultant – Radiation Oncology, Fortis Cancer Institute Mohali, during a press interaction on Friday. He said, “India tops cervical cancer deaths list and it’s the second most common cancer in women. This is despite the fact that it is a preventable cancer.”Dr Bhalla, who has a vast experience of treating cancer with various Radiotherapy techniques, said not just cervical cancer, even breast cancer has a high prevalence rate among women. “Cancer registries show that over 70 percent of cancers in women occur in the age-group of 35-64. Around 70 percent women seek diagnosis and treatment at an advanced stage of the disease, resulting in poor survival rate and high mortality. In fact, women have become more prone to cancer, with the male-female ratio in India changing from 49-51 to 39-61 in the last 10 years,” Dr Bhalla added.Talking about the symptoms of cervical cancer, Dr Bhalla said that these are non-specific, like vaginal discharge, which may be foul smelling and bloody, especially during intercourse. Human papilloma virus (HPV) Types 16 & 18 are causative organisms for carcinoma cervix, he said, adding that most HPV infections revert to normal but about 20 percent progress to cancer.
Dwelling on cancer screening, the cancer specialist said, “A simple pap smear test can reduce the cervical cancer mortality significantly. It helps detect the cancer on time, thus checking its spread. However, there is lack of awareness among people, especially in this region, due to which women often ignore the symptoms and delay treatment.”As per Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card released by the Cervical Cancer-free Coalition, India represents 26.4 percent of all women dying of cervical cancer globally. “This is one cancer where vaccination can flip this statistic on its head. Fortis Cancer Institute Mohali offers newer radiation techniques like Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), Volumetric Arc Therapy (VMAT) and Image Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) that give better results with lesser side-effects and better tolerance. Brachytherapy, which is also available, allows that an application be kept in the uterus and a high dose of radiation is delivered there. The advantage of brachytherapy is that the radiation dose is limited to the uterus, thereby saving the healthy organs,” Dr Bhalla said.
On the importance of organ-centric approach to treat tumours, he said that specialized cancer clinics have been constituted so that patients can benefit from the experience and specialization of various surgeons. The comprehensive multidisciplinary expertise available at Fortis Cancer Institute encompasses a variety of sub-specialties including gynae-onco, uro-onco, paediatric-onco, ortho-onco, haemato-onco, neuro-onco, breast-onco, endocrine, liver, head and neck, oral, ocular cancer, pain and palliative services and also includes a stoma clinic, making it a one stop treatment centre for all forms of cancer.The Radiation Oncology also laid emphasis on early diagnosis and proper treatment of the cancer patients, coupled with strategies to emulate for prevention of the deadly diseases. He added that factors such as lack of about health and hygiene, repeated pregnancies and early marriages as the primary reasons for cancer in women. He added that the disease is now a global scare causing mortality worldwide. The number of people suffering from cancer is expected to increase from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million within the next two decades.