Cervical cancer is second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women, which starts in the cervix. The cervix is positioned in the lower part of the uterus and has an opening at the top of the vagina. Cervical cancer begins within the cells (either squamous or columnar) on the surface of the cervix. Mostly, cervical cancers initiate from the squamous cells. Cervical cancer advances very slowly with its precancerous condition known as dysplasia. Administering its advancement from the dysplasia level is important so that the disease does not turn fatal.
Dysplasia is identified by a pap smear and is completely treatable. It takes years for a precancerous stage to turn into cervical cancer. Mostly, cancer of the cervix is caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), which spreads through sexual intercourse. A woman's sexual pattern or history (sex at early age and having multiple sexual partners) has a role to play in the development of cervical cancer.
Management of cervical cancer includes understanding of symptoms, its diagnosis, prevention and treatment options.
1. Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Abnormal cervical cell changes are not identifiable in the earliest phase of the disease. In the developmental phase of cervical cancer, women experience bleeding in the vagina, unexplainable change in menstrual cycle, pain during sexual intercourse and vaginal discharge tinged with blood.
2. Cervical Cancer Diagnosis
It is important to confirm the condition of cervical cancer when signs and symptoms are experienced. A regular pelvic exam along with a Pap test is done to confirm the disease. The Pap test examines changes in sample of cells present on the cervix’s surface. If the health care provider finds abnormal cell changes in the sample, he recommends performing other tests to ascertain presence of the cancer cells within cervix.
3. Treatment of Cervical Cancer
If identified early, cervical cancer can be cured. The treatment of cervical cancer in most of the cases means removal of cancer cells from the surface of cervix. The treatments may accompany complications such as inability to have children. Hysterectomy (removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes), radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the treatment options to get rid of cervical cancer.
4. Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer can be prevented or its advancement can be restricted with immunisation approved by food and drug administration. Vaccinations help combat infections against HPVs responsible for causing cervical cancer.
Among other measures to prevent cervical cancer are practicing safe sex, limiting number of sexual partners, getting regular Pap smears, annual pelvic examination and abstaining from alcohol/smoking.
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