The most technologically advanced cancer detection will soon be within the reach of the common man (or woman in this case). The central Food and Drugs Association is working towards making the optimum cervical cancer screening option available at a low price.
Cervical cancers are associated with persistent infection with oncogenic human papillomavirus (high risk HPV). An HPV DNA test can detect the presence of oncogenic strains of the virus in cervical cells. The government is working to bring down the cost of this test to make it available to poor patients.
"Right now, this test is being offered for Rs 900. For below poverty line patients, the test is for Rs 300. But the FDA is working towards bringing down the cost of the test. Soon, it will be available for less than 2 dollars," said Dr Surendra Shastri, head of preventive oncology at Tata Memorial Hospital. Converted to Indian currency, the test will be available for Rs 100.
What's more, the test will not only reveal whether a woman is suffering from cancerous lesions, but also whether she will get it in future. "Once the test results show negative predictive value, it means that the likelihood of the woman getting cervical cancer in future is very low," said Dr Shastri.
The projections from Globocan 2008 reveal that 72,825 women died due to cervical cancer. Globocan is a software that is worked out by the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Research on Cancer every few years to help public health officials towork out a battle-plan against cancer.
Dr Indu Ambulkar, consultant oncologist, Seven Hills Hospital said that it is important for the HPV DNA test to be available for the poor, as it is the urban areas, where more cases of cervical cancer are found. What with poor genital hygiene, the cervical cancer numbers have been going up. "Early detection is the need of the hour," she said. "The main symptoms of cervical cancer are unnatural bleeding apart from the menstrual cycle and post-coital bleeding (bleeding after intercourse). In case of any of these, the woman should immediately rush to a doctor without dallying," she said.
Currently, doctors in rural India are doing cancer detection with the help of vinegar. According to doctors at Tata Memorial Hospital, vinegar (4% acetic acid) is the easiest method of detecting any abnormality in the cervix. "After applying the vinegar, the doctor has to wait for two minutes. If any part of the cervix turns white, it means that there is a cancerous lesion. Of course, the patient is then sent for HPV DNA or a Pap smear test and then undergoes a removal of the lesion on an OPD basis," said Dr Shastri.
* A human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to find a high-risk HPV infection in women.
* HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. An HPV test checks for the genetic material (DNA) of the virus. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix.
* The projections from Globocan 2008 reveal that 72,825 women died due to cervical cancer.
* More incidences of cervical cancer are seen in rural areas owing to lack of genital hygiene and awareness.
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