IACAN Hosts Seminar on Cervical Cancer

Dr. Surendranath S. Shastri (center) talked about the latest Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines before an attentive audience at the Clear Lake Islamic Center during an educational outreach program organized by IACAN. Dr. Shastri posed with dignitaries associated with the IACAN and Clear Lake Islamic Center .

CLEAR LAKE CITY: Commemorating the National Cervical Cancer Awareness month, Indian American Cancer Network (IACAN) held an educational outreach program, “How to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Completely?” on Sunday February 10, 2019, at Clear Lake Islamic Center.

Dr. Surendranath S. Shastri, M.B.B.S, M.D., D.Ph., Professor, Division of Health Disparities Research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, was the keynote speaker at the information session. In the past, Dr. Shastri headed the Division of Preventive Oncology in Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India, and was the Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Cancer Prevention, Screening and Early Detection for South East Asia. He often serves on the WHO expert panel for cancer and non-communicable diseases.

Dr. Shastri began the presentation by explaining the association between Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical cancer. HPV, he explained, spreads through sexual intercourse.
Women whose sexual initiation starts early, has/had multiple sex partners, or has/had a partner with present/past history of multiple sex partners, are at higher risk of cervical cancer. He provided a brief overview of the progress of HPV infection to cervical cancer.

Discussing the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, he mentioned that patients do not experience any symptoms until late stages of the disease. Late detection necessitates, invasive, painful and expensive treatment modalities involving extensive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. However, HPV vaccination and regular cervical screening could prevent and completely cure the disease.
He talked about the latest (2018) Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and discussed the screening methods such as Pap test, HPV tests and a new method called vinegar test.

Dr. Shastri recommended that every woman within the age group of 21-65 years should undergo cervical screening i.e. Pap test every three years during 21-29 years and HPV test every five years during 30-65 years. He mentioned about his work in India, where patients from lower socio economic status were able to access the low cost screening technique called ‘vinegar test’, which resulted in increased screening uptake, hence, reducing mortality from cervical cancer by 31 percent.

Vinegar test has also been proven to be effective in reducing mortality from cervical cancer in other resource-constrained countries in Asia and Africa.

The second half of the presentation comprised of discussion on HPV vaccination as a preventive measure to cervical cancer. Dr. Shastri cited the example of Australia, which has embarked on a plan of cervical cancer elimination by 2035 through HPV vaccination of boys and girls and HPV screening of women. HPV vaccination not only prevents cervical cancer but also other forms of HPV-related cancers such as oral, anal, penile and vulvar cancers. He referenced the latest WHO HPV vaccination guidelines, and mentioned that every adolescent male and female should be vaccinated around the age of 11-12 years to protect them from future HPV infections. If the child receives vaccination before 15 years of age, two doses are recommended, however if the vaccination happens after 15 years of age, three doses are recommended. Even adults can take HPV vaccination to protect themselves from future infections, however, it would not address any infections prior to vaccination.

The presentation was followed by an interactive session with the audience. Dr. Shastri hopes that his message would encourage more people to take up the recommended preventive measures and protect themselves from the disease. He said that it would be a crime if women die of cervical cancer because it is completely preventable.

Audience found the information very beneficial, especially because it addressed misconceptions related to cervical cancer and HPV vaccination. IACAN is looking forward to conducting more outreach events to raise awareness about cancer in our community.