How important is early screening for cervical cancer?

The diagnostic accuracy of Papanicolaou (Pap) smears has been improved with the development of liquid-based cervical cytology. Sample and slide preparation, as well as errors in laboratory detection and interpretation, contribute to inaccurate Pap results in conventional Pap smears.

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In urban India, liquid-based cytology (LBC) and HPV tests are used to detect cancer.(File)

by Sumit Bagaria

Among all kinds of Cancers, Cervical Cancer is a totally Preventable cancer. Cervical cancer incidence, observed in women has been increasing at an alarming rate in the country. According to government data, approximately 1,23,907 new cervical cancer cases are detected annually in India1. Early and timely screening can help prevent cervical cancer. It is an issue that continues to be a rising one to this day. On this International Day of Action for Women’s Health, let us have a look at the screening technologies available in India to battle this disease. The fact that most occurrences of cervical cancer are identified at an advanced stage is one of the causes of the disease’s increased mortality rate.

In India, Cervical cancer prevention initiatives by both the government and voluntary organizations have been active over several decades but are yet to make an impact. While just screening and treatment of precancerous lesions was possible initially, presently there is an additional option of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. There are approximately 59.7 million girls and 272.8 million women in India in the eligible age category for cervical cancer vaccine and screening, respectively. It might take 15-20 years for cervical cancer to become invasive2. Therefore early, and regular screening is so crucial.

In rural India, screening methods such as Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA), and magnification device visual inspection (Pap smear) are used to detect cancer. Using VIA in conjunction with easy treatment procedures for early cervical lesions, trained health professionals can provide an effective and economical screening method. This method, even though economical, has its limitations of subjectivity in diagnosis. It is possible to screen for detection of cervical cancer in women between 30 to 50 years of age by use of this approach.

In urban India, liquid-based cytology (LBC) and HPV tests are used to detect cancer. Cervical samples are now prepared using a novel cytology technique known as liquid-based cytology or Thinprep Test. With this procedure, rather than using the traditional “smear,” cells are suspended in a buffer and employed to create a thin layer on the slide. Compared to a traditional Papanicolaou test, this procedure is less intrusive and more accurate. This test is only for the detection of cervical cancer or its precursors3.

The diagnostic accuracy of Papanicolaou (Pap) smears has been improved with the development of liquid-based cervical cytology. Sample and slide preparation, as well as errors in laboratory detection and interpretation, contribute to inaccurate Pap results in conventional Pap smears. Globally, most laboratories have adopted high-quality Liquid-based methods like ThinPrep Test to ensure enhanced diagnostic accuracy.

In order to reduce the incidence and mortality due to cervical cancer, even a single cycle of screening is effective compared to no screening. It is imperative that women over 30 years must undergo cervical check-ups at least twice in their life over a gap of 10 years. It takes just about 5 minutes for the procedure at a Gynaecology centre for sample collection.

We, therefore, need to act faster and generate awareness about the early screening and detection of cervical cancer in India. It is time we wake up and move toward preventive care for Indian women.

(The author is MD & CEO, Hemogenomics. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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