Well, it can be painful to witness how diseases can turn around a person’s life. There are many life-threatening diseases that you absolutely have no idea of until it becomes serious. One of them is cancer. This month, we are bringing out various topics pertaining to women’s health. So in this article, let us learn about Cervical Cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the diseases which takes up many lives, and most people remain unaware of it.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer happens to be in the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are responsible for causing this cancer. It is a sexually transmitted infection that is very common to occur in women who are sexually active.
Who Can Get Cervical Cancer?
It is more likely that young women do not get this cancer. Most of the women who have cervical cancer cases are between 35-44 years of age. This cancer takes almost 15-20 years to develop fully. However, women with pre-cancerous cells have cervix cancer; only some of them develop into cervical cancer, whereas others don’t. Mostly the pre-cancerous cells go away without any treatment. But in others, it turns into true invasive cancer. Treating cervical pre-cancer can prevent almost all cervical cancers.
How Does Cervical Cancer Happen?
When the body is exposed to the Human Papillomavirus, the body’s immune system mostly prevents the virus from doing any type of harm to the body. In a small percentage, the virus is capable of surviving for years, contributing to the process, which can cause cervical cells to become cancer cells.
Identification of Cervical Cancer
We at OnlyMyHealth have specialised doctors to help you out with your issues. Hence we asked Dr Rudresh Tabali, Consultant Surgical Oncology, HCG NMR Cancer Centre, Hubli, for his expert opinion on this cervical cancer. He said, “The disease can be prevented by regular screening, immunizations, and vaccinations. The screening interval is every three years, and types of screening methods are PAP smear and HPV DNA testing. Screening tests are simple, and they are the most effective way of identifying disease at a pre-invasive or early stage. So the disease can be picked up early, treated effectively, prevent all morbidity and mortality associated with this deadly disease.”
The major way of identification of cervical cancer is through regular screening and Pap tests.
- Pap Test- It involves collecting cells from the cervix. It is also called Pap smear. It is a regular procedure for test of cervical cancer.
- HPV Test- It is a type of screening test that identifies the virus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer cells.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Following are the symptoms of cervical cancer that you must know about:
- Heavier period flow, periods do not follow a normal cycle.
- Abnormal bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or even after menopause.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Unusual vaginal discharge that might contain blood
- Vaginal discharge
These are the signs which can reveal that you might have cervical cancer. But it is not necessary as there are no major symptoms in the beginning. Therefore kindly consult an expert doctor for the same.
Types of Cervical Cancer
There are majorly two types of cervical cancers: Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma.
- The most common cervical cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma which happens to 9 out of 10 women who face Cervical cancer. This type of cervical cancer often begins in the transformation zone where ‘Exocervix’ joins the ‘Endocervix’.
- The other type of Cervical Cancer is Adenocarcinomas. These are cancers that develop from the glandular cells. Cervical adenocarcinoma develops from the muscles producing gland cells of the endocervix.
- It is less common to happen, but cervical cancer also features both Squamous Cell cancer and Adenocarcinomas. These are called Adenosquamous Carcinomas or, in normal term Mixed Carcinomas.
- There are some other rare Cervical Cancers as well, namely- Melanoma, Sarcoma, and lymphoma too.
Stages of Cervical Cancer
There are stages to determine cervical cancer and the seriousness of the disease. Let’s find out what are the stages at which Cervical Cancer may be determined. Cervical Cancer tends to grow slowly, which in general is good for determining the stage well before. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better and more are the chances to treat cancer and get well.
- Stage-1 Cancer Cells are present on the cervix and may have got into the uterus.
- Stage-2 cancer has spread outside the cervix and the uterus.
- Stage-3 cancer has spread to the lower walls and has started affecting the kidneys.
- Stage-4 cancer has spread to the Pelvis beyond the lining of the bladder inside the rectum or to distant organs of the body.
Cause of Cervical Cancer
It is a deadly disease if it has spread out to a large part of the system. Most Cervical cancer happens due to HPV infection. Human Papillomavirus is one of the most common infections in woman’s reproductive system. It generally occurs in most sexually active people. HPV is easy to transmit as it took the skin to skin contact. Cervical cancer can happen even if you have not had penetrative sex. Most of the times, HPV clears up in almost two years, but there are chances that you may catch it again if you are sexually active.
Factors Affecting Cervical Cancer
Even if cervical cancer may not occur as a most destructive disease, some factors can help it in developing like one. Here is the list of factors that can affect Cervical Cancer-
- General health, including conditions such as HIV
- Age of diagnosis
- The type of HPV involved
- A specific type of Cervical cancer (rare ones)
- How quickly the treatment begins
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
There are a few prevention methods that you can take to avoid cervical cancer or cure it at an early stage.
- Regular Pap tests- Pap tests have significantly reduced the rate of deaths caused by cervical cancers.
- Asking your doctor for the HPV vaccine (if needed or otherwise)
- Getting treatment and going for follow-up testing.
- Avoid or Quit smoking can really help.
Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer
There are ways through which cervical cancer is diagnosed. Pap tests can check for abnormal cells but do not confirm if they are cancerous. Hence for confirmation, you need to go through a cervical biopsy. For diagnosis, a sample of tissue is taken from the cervical canal, and this process is called Endocervical curettage. This can also be done through a Colposcopy, where the doctor uses a lighted magnifying tool to get a closer look inside the vagina and cervix. It is also possible that your doctor may want to perform a cone biopsy to get a clear, larger cone-shaped sample of cervical tissue. It is an outpatient surgery and involves a scalpel or laser.
Cervical cancer is caused by HPV infection majorly. It is a deadly disease that happens to Women who are more sexually active. Cervical cancer is seen in ages from 35-44 as it takes 15-20 years to mature. There are two types of cervical cancer, out of which Squamous cell carcinoma is more evident. The good part is that it can be treated, and vaccination is also available for Cervical Cancer.
(Written by Puru Bansal, Sub Editor, Onlymyhealth)
Read more articles on Cancer