Poonam Pandey dies at 32, spotlight on cervical cancer after tragic loss.
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Poonam Pandey’s Tragic Demise Sheds Light on Cervical Cancer and Vaccination Drive
In a devastating turn of events, actor-model Poonam Pandey passed away suddenly at the age of 32 from cervical cancer, bringing attention to this sometimes quiet but fatal illness. The tragedy ironically occurred the day after the government declared that girls between the ages of 9 and 14 will receive vaccinations against cervical cancer as part of the Budget, highlighting the critical need to address this serious health issue.
Poonam Pandey’s Battle with Cervical Cancer
According to her management, Poonam Pandey, who gained notoriety for her performance in the 2013 film “Nasha,” was given a cervical cancer diagnosis in its last stage. One of the main causes of cervical cancer’s high death rate in India is the challenge of early detection.
Understanding Cervical Cancer and HPV
The cells lining the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus that connects to the vagina, are the main targets of cervical cancer. This kind of cancer is most frequently brought on by sexual contact and is brought on by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV virus, which is commonly spread during sexual activity, is difficult to identify since it frequently shows no symptoms.
Cervical cancer symptoms can appear years after coming into contact with someone who is infected with HPV, making it more difficult to determine when the infection first began.
Alarming Cervical Cancer Statistics in India
After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Indian women. India saw a startling 1,23,907 instances of cervical cancer in 2022, which led to 77,348 fatalities. A Lancet study revealed that shockingly, one in five occurrences of cervical cancer globally were found to occur in India, making it the nation with the greatest cervical cancer burden in Asia, closely followed by China.
The Difficulty in Detecting Cervical Cancer
The Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC)’s Head of Gynaecology and Surgical Oncology, Dr. Vandana Jain, stressed the importance of the crucial 10- to 15-year window between HPV infection and cancer development. The HPV virus may be carried by the majority of sexually active women, although it usually disappears in two to three years thanks to the immune system. Cervical cancer, however, can result from ongoing infections, particularly from high-risk strains such as HPV 16 and 18.
In India, there is still a cultural taboo around cervical cancer, which prevents many women from getting screened. Dr. Raj Vardhan said that cultural taboos and a lack of information exacerbate the difficulties in fighting this disease in rural regions with limited access to screening and treatment facilities.
Government’s Initiative and Expert Perspectives
Experts praised the government’s effort to vaccinate girls between the ages of nine and fourteen for free, but they emphasised the need for more public awareness and screening accessibility. “While vaccination doesn’t offer complete protection, it will significantly contribute to reducing the burden of cervical cancer in the country,” stated Dr. Jain.
Dr. Ishwar Gilada, president of the AIDS Society of India and an expert in infectious diseases, bemoaned the low rate of HPV vaccination in India. Only around 1% of eligible females received the HPV vaccination, according to him, because of the dominance of a small number of pharmaceutical firms who have a monopoly on importing the vaccine.
The Urgent Need for Awareness and Action
The untimely death of Poonam Pandey has brought attention to the critical need for more knowledge, easier access to screening centres, and a determined effort to remove cultural obstacles related to cervical cancer. The government’s immunisation campaign is a good start, but to truly battle this silent killer, a complete strategy encompassing early identification, treatment accessibility, and education is essential. While the country laments the passing of a gifted person, it also faces a decision over a health issue that needs to be addressed right now.