Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower narrow part of the uterus (womb). Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer that women suffer from, worldwide. There are two main types of cervical cancer (squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma). Squamous cell cancer is the most common type of cervical cancer which occurs in the cells of the outer surface of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cervical cancer that starts in the glandular cells which are found in the cervical canal.

Causes

Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which are spread through genital skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing cancer following a high-risk HPV infection are:

  • Smoking
  • Being HIV or reduced immunity
  • Taking birth control pills for long period of time

Symptoms

In its early stages, cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms. Therefore it is essential to schedule regular check-ups to check for HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix. However in later stages, cervical cancer leads to vaginal bleeding (including bleeding after sexual intercourse), spotting and unusual vaginal discharge. Signs of advanced cervical cancer include pelvic pain, urination problem and swollen legs.

Diagnosis

Various tests which are used to detect cervical cancer include:

  • General pelvic exam is carried out that involves examination of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and rectum
  • The Pap test is a quick and simple test that check for changes in the cervical cells
  • Colposcopy test involves examination of the vagina and cervix to check for the abnormalities
  • Biopsy is done where a small tissue sample is taken from the cervix during a colposcopy
  • Cone biopsy involves removal of large tissue from the cervix under anesthesia

Prevention

HPV vaccination- Vaccines are now available that can protect against HPV infection. These vaccines protect against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. They are given in three shots. The vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year old girls and recommended for those (13 to 26 yrs. age) who did not get any or all of the shots in their younger age. Awareness about cervical cancer and HPV vaccination among young girls and their parents plays a crucial role in decreasing the cases of cervical cancer.

Regular check-up and Pap smear taken under proper medical supervision to detect cervical cancers cells.

Use of preventive measures such as condoms during intercourse reduces the risk of getting HPV and cervical cancer.

Women who smoke are about twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as compared to non-smokers. Hence avoiding smoking can reduce the chances of cervical cancer.

Treatment for cervical cancer

The treatment for cervical cancer depends upon the kind of cervical cancer and how far it is spread. Treatment methods mainly include surgery procedures, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgery can be carried out by hysterectomy which is an operation that involves removal of uterus.

Radiation therapy is another cancer treatment method that uses high-energy radiation to kill the cancer cells and prevent them from growing.

Chemotherapy which includes the use of anti-cancer drugs that stops cancer cells from multiplying can also be used in treatment of cervical cancer.

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