Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects it to the vagina. In most cases, cancer starts developing in the lining of the cervix before spreading to other parts of the body if not detected and treated in the early stages.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer:
The following symptoms indicate cervical cancer in the early stages.
Lower abdominal pain/Pelvic pain
Unusual Vaginal discharge
Abnormal vaginal bleeding/bleeding in between periods
Painful sexual intercourse.
Bleeding after intercourse.
Moreover, in the late stages or when cancer spreads to other parts, the patient may have the following symptoms.
Swelling in legs
Feeling tired easily /low energy level
A feeling of constipation/difficulty in passing stool.
What are the Causes of Cervical Cancer?
Cancer of the cervix may have the following causative factors.
Human papillomavirus infection (HPV): Infection caused by human papillomavirus infection may cause cervical cancer.HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Moreover; it is not the exact cause because cervical cancer may develop in women who do not have HPV virus infection.
Women with Weakened Immune Systems: Women with low immunity can develop cervical cancer. Such as women with HIV/AIDS, and organ transplantation have low immunity and are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Multiple Sexual Partners: A woman with multiple sexual partners or being sexually active at a young age is at a high risk of developing it. Being involved with multiple sex partners, there is a high risk of getting HPV infection which increases the risk.
Low socioeconomic status: People with low socioeconomic status have very limited access to healthcare facilities such as unable to do screening for cervical cancer and HPV vaccination. Thus increases the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Lack of screening: Moreover, Lack of screening by Pap smear test and unable to detect cervical cancerous changes can increase the risk for cervical cancer.
How to Diagnose Cervical Cancer?
Physical examination and Health History: Your health care provider will take a complete medical and gynecological history including signs and symptoms and will do a thorough physical examination, especially a pelvic examination.
Pap smear: A pap smear is done by removing cells with a swab of the cervical surface to see under a microscope to find out cancerous or precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. This test also indicates the infection or inflammatory processes.
Colposcopy: In this procedure, your healthcare professional uses a device called a colposcope to visualize the cervix. It helps in cervical cells and changes in the cell’s shape.
Biopsy: A small piece of tissue is taken under a microscope to differentiate and diagnose between cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells. This also helps to diagnose the type of cancer.
Human papillomavirus testing: HPV test is done in screening for cervical cancer. It is not necessary that a positive HPV test confirm it but it can detect and show precancerous changes in cervical tissues
CT scan (computed tomography): This test shows the spread of cancer to other parts of the body which may help in the staging of cervical cancer.
Positron emission test (PET): This test also helps detect cancer in other body parts.
What will be the Treatment?
Cervical cancer is treatable when diagnosed in the initial stages. Treatment options depend upon the staging of the disease, the patient’s general condition, and preferences.
Surgery: The surgeon removes the cancerous part through surgery. It is effective when cancer is localized to the cervix or uterus. This surgery involves the removal of the cervix, vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes, and some nearby lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy: Cytotoxic drugs are given through a vein or in pill form to kill cancer cells.
Radiation Therapy: High doses of X-rays are given to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be given externally or internally (brachytherapy).
External radiation: In external radiation therapy beam of X-rays is given from outside with the help of a machine.
Internal radiation (brachytherapy: in this type a radioactive material is placed near the cervix for a specific time period. This is called brachytherapy.
Immunotherapy: In this therapy, medications are used to boost a patient’s immunity which fights against cancer cells in the cervix.
Targeted Therapy. Drugs used in this therapy only targets cancer cell These drugs do not destroy cancer cells nor harm normal cells. And the patient suffers/experiences fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
Palliative Treatment: If cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, abdomen lungs, etc., your consultant will just give you treatment to manage the symptoms and provide you with comfort. This is called palliative treatment.
Can we prevent cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer can be prevented by some protective measures such as,
- Regular screening for HPV infection
- Regular pap smear tests.
- Getting vaccination against HPV
- Avoid multiple sexual partners to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
- Take very good care of personal hygiene, especially of the genital area.
- Maintained a healthy lifestyle and diet.
- Maintain a good immune system
- Avoid smoking/drinking alcohol
- Use contact barriers such as condoms to prevent STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). This also lowers the risk of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can be treated effectively if diagnosed early and has a high survival rate. It is possible to prevent this type of cancer by maintaining good health through regular checkups, undergoing screening tests, and adopting a healthy lifestyle while boosting immunity.