Table of Contents
What is Cervical Cancer?
The Uterine cervix is the lowest part of the uterus connecting the uterus and vagina. Cervical cancer is when the cells of the cervix grow abnormally and invade other tissues and organs of the body. When cervical cancer is invasive, it affects the deeper tissues of the cervix and may spread to other parts of the body like lungs, liver, bladder, vagina as well as rectum.
Causes of Cervical Cancer:
- Cervical cancer is caused due to abnormal growth of cells in the cervix. Due to genetic mutation, the abnormally growing cells invade the other healthy cell and destroy them.
- There is a difference between healthy cells and cancerous cells. The healthy cells grow and develop at a rate and also die eventually. However cancerous cells grow abnormally and feed on the healthy cells. These cells do not die. Due to this, they spread and also affect other organs of the body.
- The cause of cervical cancer is not certain. Factors like a family history of cancer, environmental and other related factors contribute to the cause of cervical cancer.
Types of Cervical Cancer:
There are two types of Cervical Cancer which help to determine the prognosis and treatment of this cancer. The main types of cancer are:
1. Squamous cell carcinoma:
Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) lining the outer part of the cervix, which projects into the vagina.
This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
Sometimes, both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Very rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.
Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer:
1. HPV Infection:
This stands for Human Papillomavirus infection. The existence of this infection can be a risk factor towards causing cervical cancer.
2. Many Sexual Partners:
Having intercourse with more than one partner can lead to the contraction of HPV infection. Since it is a risk factor of cervical cancer, you may have chances of contracting the same.
3. Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases:
If you have any of the other sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, Gonorrhea, syphillus and chlamydia, you can also have HPV infection which may lead to cervical cancer.
4. Weak Immune System:
If your body’s capacity to fight with HPV infection is reduced due to being affected with any other disease that reduces the immunity of your body, then you may get HPV and ultimately develop cervical cancer.
5. Smoking can cause Cervical Cancer:
Smoking is often linked to the formation of squamous cell cervical cancer. Though studies do not confirm the role of smoking to cervical cancer but most women who have been affected with cervical cancer have known to be smoking too.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:
There are various easily recognisable symptoms of cervical cancer. The easy recognition makes it easier to be diagnosed and treated as well.
1. Vaginal Bleeding:
You may experience vaginal bleeding which is not due to menstrual cycle or occurs after menopause. The bleeding may also be noticed after intercourse.
2. Pelvic Pain:
You may experience pain in your pelvic region. This pain may become worse as your cancer advances. Get yourself examined and do not ignore any such kind of pains and aches.
3. Watery Vaginal Discharge:
Apart from vaginal bleeding, you may also experience loss of water from your vagina. This water is usually thick, sticky and smelly. Check with your doctor as soon as possible if you are shedding of foul smelled sticky discharges.
4. Kidney Failure:
At very advanced stages when the cancer has spread, your kidney may also fail. This may be due to urinary tract infection and bowel failure caused due to cervical cancer.
How to Prevent Cervical Cancer?
1. Indulge in safe sex:
Sex is for personal pleasure. But you must practice sex responsibly. Take measures to avoid contracting HPV infection. Having fewer partners and delaying intercourse may avoid cervical cancer. Use condom while having sex to avoid any sexually transmitted disease also.
2. Get Vaccinated for HPV infection:
Vaccination to protect against HPV infection is available and can be administered to girls between the age of 9 years to 26 years of age. The vaccination works best if it is administered before the girls become sexually active.
3. Have routine Pap Test:
Pap tests can detect routine precancerous conditions of the cervix. This helps them to be detected at an early stage and also get Treated before the cancer becomes more dangerous. Most medical organizations suggest this test regularly after the age of 21 years.
4. Quit Smoking:
Smoking is a very bad habit. It not only hazardous for your lungs and may cause complications like asthma and lung cancer, but is also a risk factor when it comes to cervical cancer. It is advised you take steps to quit smoking right away.
Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer:
The Pap test and HPV testing are two ways to diagnose cervical cancer. Other ways are:
It is similar to pelvic examination. This examination uses a type of microscope known as colposcope. The entire area of the cervix is stained with mild acetic acid. This makes it easier to detect abnormal cells. This area is then biopsed. The colposcope magnifies this region by 15 times which allows easy identification of abnormal appearing tissues.
2. The LEEP Technique:
The Loop electrosurgical excision procedure stands for the LEEP Technique. An electrified loop of wire is used to take a sample of tissue from cervix. This procedure is performed under the guidance of your gynecologist.
This is a surgical method in which a cone shaped portion of your cervix is extracted for examination. The extraction can be made through LEEP technique or with a scalpel of using a laser.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer:
Hysterectomy is the removal of uterus and cervix. Sometimes fallopian tubes and ovaries are also removed. This is done to defeat the very cause of cervical cancer. Hysterectomy is usually performed on women above the age of 35 years.
Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful drugs to destroy the cancer. It is usually used when the cancer has spread to other organs and has reached an advanced stage. Chemotherapy has a lot of side effects on the body.
2. Radiation Therapy:
Powerful rays are used to penetrate through and kill the cancer causing cells. Radiation destroys the cancer cell only in the treated area.
After the cure of cervical cancer, regular Pap tests are important for the woman. These tests are also recommended to other women at large to ensure that cervical cancer may be detected as early as possible and causes least damage. Pelvic examinations are also prescribed to take a regular follow up of the after effects of the treatment and to ensure that the cells do not regrow.
The good thing about cervical cancer is that it grows at a very slow pace. Cervical cancer takes time to metastize. The symptoms are such that anyone may readily recognize it. The treatment too is easy if the cancer has not spread to other regions. One may be able to identify and cure cervical cancer in its initial stage itself.
A patient with cancer needs trusted and well experienced doctor with a good hospital to treat their disease. All of these are available in the US which now has the best cancer hospitals to treat your disease with utmost care and concern.