The Cervical Cancer Vaccine (HPV Vaccine) has been a matter of great speculation since the time of its subsidized introduction in India was put on hold.
Cervical Cancer is one of the leading causes of Cancer-related deaths in developing countries such as India. It is also the third most common Cancer in women around the world.It is estimated that one woman in India dies every eight minutes from Cervical Cancer.
Cervical Cancer is most commonly seen in areas where regular screening and vaccination programmes have not been implemented.
Cervical Cancer Vaccine - Who Needs It?
What are the risk factors for Cervical Cancer?
The risk factors that can increase/reduce someone's chances of developing Cervical Cancer, are as follows:
- Persistent HPV infection: HPV infection is detected in 99% of Cervical Cancer cases. Cervical Cancer usually develops after 10 to 20 years of persistent HPV infection.
- The risk factors which are associated with HPV infection, are: Early age of sexual intercourse (less than 21Years), a history of multiple sexual partners, having a male secual partner with history of multiple sexual partners, having a large number of pregnancies, and a history of sexually transmitted diseases such Chlamydia, HIV infection, etc.
- Chemical, Hormonal and other Carcinogens are also found to be risk factors for Cervical Cancer.
- Smoking may increase the risk of Cervical Cancer.
- A prior HIV infection is associated with upto five-fold increased risk of Cervical Cancer, due to the persistence of HPV infection in such patients.
Should you consider getting the Cervical Cancer Vaccine?
What are the most common Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Women should consider getting screened for Cervical Cancer if any of the following symptoms are persistent.
- The most common symptom of Cervical Cancer is Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding.
- The most specific symptom of Cervical Cancer is post-coital bleeding (bleeding after sexual intercourse).
- In countries where screening is routinely implemented, the most common finding/indicator is an Abnormal Pap Smear.
- Other symptoms of Cervical Cancer include Vaginal discharge which is foul smelling and blood stained, accompanied by pain in the Suprapubic region, etc.
- In patients with Bladder and Rectal involvement, Urinary frequency, Incontinency, Urgency, Blood in urine, Altered bowel habits such as Constipation and Rectal bleeding are noted.
- Patients may also complaint of easy fatigue, unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite.
- Patients whose Cervical Cancer may have spread to other organs, are known to complain of abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness (stomach), nausea and vomiting, pain in the bones, nagging cough, difficulty in breathing, etc.
Cervical Cancer Vaccine - Why has the Indian Government still not introduced HPV Vaccinations?
The NTAGI (National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization) had initially recommended the HPV Vaccination in India, to prevent Cervical Cancer.
However, in a letter that was later written by Swadeshi Jagaran Manch co-convener Ashwani Mahajan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December last year, allegations were made about alternate motives to sell the vaccine.
The letter from SJM to Shri Narendra Modi said:
"Swadeshi Jagran Manch requests you to stop this move to introduce the HPV vaccine in India and we recommend the strongest action against groups that pervert science, which brings ignominy to the scientific community in the country and sells the country to vested interests. It is our concern that this programme will divert scarce resources from more worthwhile health initiatives diverting it to this vaccine of doubtful utility and that its adverse effects will erode confidence in the national immunization programme and thereby expose children unnecessarily to the risk of more serious vaccine-preventable disease.”
The Indian Express Today reported that the government's decision to not introduce the vaccine came as a result of this RSS objection.
“We are not going ahead with it now,” was the source-hidden quote that the Indian Express had obtained. According to their report, highly placed sources in the ministry sahave said that the vaccine will not become a part of the country's Immunization Programme anytime soon, no matter what the NTAGI decides.
How to get the Cervical Cancer Vaccine in India?
Even if the government does not subsidize it, it is possible for educated and aware women in this country to obtain the HPV Vaccine.
The Cervical Cancer (HPV Vaccine) is presently sold by two companies in India - Gardasil and GSK (Glaxosmithkline). Administered mostly in private sector hospitals, the vaccine is provided only when patients ask for it, or if a doctor prescribes it.
How much does a single dose of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine (HPV Vaccine) cost?
The HPV Vaccine costs less than $5 (approximately Rs 350) for a single dose, on an average.