Cervical Cancer is a cancer that starts in the Cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the Vagina. It occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow uncontrollable. Various strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer. HPV infection is very common, and most people with HPV infection do not develop cancer. There are over 100 types of HPVs, and only certain types have been linked to cancers. HPV infection is spread through sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact. Many studies have shown that HPV infection is common and that a majority of people will be infected with HPV at some point in life. In some women, the HPV infection persists and causes precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. In a small group of women, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. Cancer of the cervix tends to occur during midlife. Half of the women diagnosed with the disease are between 35 and 55 years of age. It rarely affects women under age 20, and approximately 20 percent of diagnoses are made in women older than 65.
STAGES OF CERVICAL CANCER
Working on the stages of Cervical Cancer is very important as it helps you to undergo the right kind of treatment. It is basically a 4-stage system:
STAGE 0: Precancerous cells are present.
STAGE 1: Cancer cells have grown from the surface into deeper tissues of the cervix, and possibly into the uterus and to nearby lymph nodes.
STAGE 2: The cancer has is now beyond the cervix and uterus, but not as far as the walls of the the lower part of the vagina. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
STAGE 3: Cancer cells are present in the lower part of the vagina or the walls of the pelvis, and it may be blocking the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the bladder. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
STAGE 4: The cancer affects the bladder or rectum and is growing out of the pelvis. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes. Later in stage 4, it will spread to distant organs, including the liver, bones, lungs, and lymph nodes.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER
Early stage of Cervical Cancer do not produce any kind of symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
- Longer or heavier menstrual periods than usual
- Other abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
RELATED: Know about Menstrual Cycle.
CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER
Generally, cancer occurs because of the growth of uncontrolled division and growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic change (mutation) that causes them to turn into abnormal cells. Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. HPV is found in about 99% of cervical cancers. There are over 100 different types of HPV, most of which are considered low-risk and do not cause cervical cancer. High-risk HPV types may cause cervical cell abnormalities or cancer.
A woman with a persistent HPV infection is at greater risk of developing cervical cell abnormalities and cancer than a woman whose infection resolves on its own. Certain types of this virus are able to transform normal cervical cells into abnormal ones. In a small number of cases and usually over a long period of time (from several years to several decades), some of these abnormal cells may then develop into cervical cancer.
TYPES OF CERVICAL CANCER
The type of cervical cancer that you have helps determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer 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. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
- Adenocarcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
RISK FACTORS OF CERVICAL CANCER
- Having many sexual partners.
- Weakened Immune system
- Long-term Mental Stress
- Several Pregnancies
- Giving birth at very tender age
- Birth Control Pills
- Family history of Cervical Cancer
RELATED: A guide to Pregnancy.
DIAGNOSIS OF CERVICAL CANCER
The earlier the Cervical Cancer is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. Therefore, it is necessary to opt for best diagnosis of Cervical Cancer. Some of the Diagnostic Tests for it includes A Pap Test which is all time recommended by the doctor in order to examine Cervical Cancer. During a Pap test, the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix to look for cell changes. If a Pap test shows abnormal cell changes, your doctor may do other tests to look for precancerous or cancer cells on your cervix.
Other tests include:
- Cervical Smear Test
- CT Scan
- Pelvic Ultrasound
- Blood Tests
TREATMENTS OF CERVICAL CANCER
Depending upon the stage of the cancer, you may have one or more treatments. Some of the treatment methods are:
- RADIATION THERAPY: It involves the use of beams of high-energy X-rays or particles (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. Radiation that is aimed at the pelvic area may cause the following side effects:
3. Upset Stomach
4. Bladder Irritation
5. Narrowing of Vagina
6. Interrupted Periods
- CHEMOTHERAPY: It is the use of chemicals to destroy the cancer cells that surgery cannot or did not remove, or to help the symptoms of people with advanced cancer. It also includes a variety of side effects which are:
2. Hair loss
- SURGERY: It is the removal of Pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes. Hysterectomy, Cone Biopsy, Trachelectomy are the main procedures of surgery. With more advanced cancers, a procedure known as pelvic exenteration removes the uterus, surrounding lymph nodes, and parts of other organs surrounding the cancer, depending on its location.
- TARGETED THERAPY: It refers to drugs that have been specifically developed, or targeted, to interrupt cellular processes that promote growth of cancer cells. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is an example of targeted therapy. It is a drug that inhibits the ability of tumors to make new blood vessels, which is required for tumor growth.
PREVENTION OF CERVICAL CANCER
There are various measure which can be taken in order to prevent Cervical Cancer and reduce the chances of developing it anyhow. They include:
- HPV Vaccine
- Safe Sex
- Having fewer sexual partners
- Delaying first sexual intercourse
- Stop smoking