Cassian Baliarsingh

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her recent interim budget speech announced the Centre’s commitment towards vaccinating girls aged 9-14 against cervical cancer. However, not many know that the fight against cervical cancer started 20 years ago.

The Centre had formed an Oncology committee comprising senior specialists that included two doctors from Odisha- Tushar Kar and Bhagyalaxmi Nayak who hail from Cuttack. While Dr. Tushar Kar acted as the chairperson of the oncology committee from 2004-2009, Dr. Bhagyalaxmi Nayak took over the position from 2018-2021.

Similarly, Dr. Harshad Parasnis from Pune served as the chairperson from 2010-2012, Dr. Niranjan Chavan (Mumbai) from 2013-2015, Dr. Neerja Bhatia (AIIMS, New Delhi) from 2015-2017, and Dr. Priya Ganeshan (Mumbai) from 2021-2024.

For almost 20 years, the committee has been making continuous efforts to bring out vaccination for cervical cancer. Finally, after 20 years, the Finance Minister has announced vaccination for cervical cancer for girls aged 9-14.

Speaking to OTV, Dr. Tushar Kar, the first chairperson of the Oncology Committee said, “After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most deadly virus leading to rise in death of women. Majorly speaking of the symptoms, there will be white discharge, bleeding, and foul smell. So, I will request women/girls to not neglect such symptoms because we will prevent the virus if diagnosed in the early stage.”

“Due to lack of awareness, women come to know about the virus only in an advanced stage. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be expensive and not 100% treatable. We have to understand that the sexually transmitted HPV virus is the reason behind cervical cancers. This virus can be killed only after vaccination,” he added.

As stated by FM Nirmala Sitharaman, the vaccination is for girls aged between 9-14. So, answering the question about what adolescent women who haven’t taken the vaccination till now, Dr. Kar said that women and men both can take the vaccination till 26 years of age.

While the vaccination prevents 5 different types of cancer in women, it saves men from 2 types of cancer, he added.