Center for Global Health and Development University of Nebraska Medical Centre College of Public Health Omaha, NE, USA
Cervical cancer (CaCx) is the second most fatal cancer contributing to 14% of cancers in Indian females, which account for 25.4% and 26.5% of the global burden of CaCx prevalence and mortality, respectively. Persistent infection with high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV- strains 16 and 18) is the most important risk factor for precursors of invasive CaCx. Comprehensive prevention strategies for CaCx should include screening and HPV vaccination. Three screening modalities for CaCx are cytology, visual inspection with acetic acid, and HPV testing. There is no Indian national policy on CaCx prevention, and screening of asymptomatic females against CaCx is practically non-existent. HPV vaccines can make a major breakthrough in the control of CaCx in India which has high disease load and no organized screening program. Despite the Indian Government's effort to introduce HPV vaccination in the National Immunization Program and bring down vaccine cost, challenges to implementing vaccination in India are strong such as inadequate epidemiological evidence for disease prioritization, duration of vaccine use, parental attitudes, and vaccine acceptance. This paper reviews the current epidemiology of CaCx and HPV in India, and the current status of HPV vaccination in the country. This article stresses the need for more research in the Indian context, to evaluate interventions for CaCx and assess their applicability, success, scalability and sustainability within the constraints of the Indian health care system.