Cervical Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Cervical cancer is a dangerous type of cancer which occurs in the cells of a woman’s cervix, the lower part of abdomen connected to the vagina.

It is due to HPV (human papillomavirus),  a sexually transmitted infection which is the main cause of cervical cancer. While exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV), the women’s immune system fights against the virus from making the cells abnormal.

The virus survives for years but in a small group of women. It causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.

Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) causes more than 90% of cases;[most people who have had HPV infections, however, do not develop cervical cancer.Other risk factors include smoking, a weak immune system, birth control pills, starting sex at a young age, and having many sexual partners, but these are less important. Cervical cancer typically develops from precancerous changes over 10 to 20 years. source “wikipedia”

The risk of developing cancer can be reduced by screening tests and having a vaccine which protects against HPV infection.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

cervical cancer symptoms

At an early stage, there are no any symptoms or signs of cervical cancer. It shows signs and symptoms at the more advanced stage. Signs are included such as

Vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause or after intercourse.

Vaginal discharge, watery, or sometimes bloody which may be heavy with bad smell.

Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.

When to see a doctor

It is not necessary that vaginal bleeding is connected with cancer, its causes may differ based on your age, medical history or fertility. If you feel vaginal bleeding after the menopause, then it’s not normal. Immediately, visit your doctor for a check-up. A doctor will perform tests.

Having vaginal bleeding with feelings of weakness, faint, light-headed or actual fainting, make a visit to your doctor as soon as possible for care.

Causes of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer starts when normal cells get a genetic change called mutation which causes them to turn into cancer cells.

Normal cells grow and increase at a proper rate, dies at a fixed time, while cancer cells multiply out of control and they don’t die.  Cancer cells affect the nearby organs and break off a tumor to spread all over the body.

Nobody knows what the exact reason behind cervical cancer is but it’s said that HPV plays a role. HPV is a common virus which every woman has and it never produces a tumor. It means that there are some other factors like your environment, your lifestyle etc.

Types of cervical cancer

Here we have two main types of cervical cancer, according to that, a doctor will determine your treatment and prognosis.

Squamous cell carcinoma:

In this type of cervical cancer, tumor forms in the thin, flat cells lining the surface of the cervix, which projects into the vagina. Often women have squamous cell carcinomas cervical cancer.

Adenocarcinoma.

In this type of cancer, the tumor affects the column-shaped glandular cells which line the cervical canal.

Sometimes, cancer affected both types of cells. In a very rare condition, other cells of cervix get infected.

How to Diagnose Invasive cancer Stages

cervical symptms

  •  A doctor performs a chest X-ray to see if the lungs are infected with cancer.
  • Blood tests show if the liver is involved, a CT scan can also be used if the results are not satisfying.
  • For looking urinary tract, a special X-rays called IVP or a CT scan are performed.  Urethra and bladder are examined by cystoscopy.
  • The vagina is also examined by colposcopy and rectum is examined by barium enema and proctosigmoidoscopy.
  • CT scans, PET scans or MRI scans are used to examine the lymph nodes.

These tests define the stages of cancer. After finding the stage of your disease, your doctor can suggest a suitable treatment for you.

Medical Treatment for Cervical Cancer

Treatment for precancerous lesions varies according to the stage of invasive cervical cancer.

 Precancerous Lesions

 Treatment for cervical cancer depends on many factors such as whether your lesion is on low or high stage, do you want children in future, your health age and what your doctor thinks about your treatment.

When you have a lesion at low stage, then you may need not further treatment, especially if cancer cells were completely removed by biopsy.

If you have a precancerous lesion at a high stage, the treatment you may need, LEEP conization, cryosurgery(freezing), cold knife conization and laser surgery are used to destroy the cancer cells as well as avoiding damage to nearby normal tissues.

 Invasive cancer

The most common treatment which we used for invasive cervical cancer is radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biological therapy.

Usually, for treatment of invasive cervical cancer, a team of specialist works together with such as a gynecologist, a radiation oncologist, and oncologist.  The team decides to use to choose whether they should use one treatment method or a number of methods. You may choose to take part in a research study (clinical trial) to determine new treatment methods.  This method has both risks and benefits.

Risk factors For Cervical Cancer

Here we have some risk factors for having cervical cancer

More than one sexual partner:

if you have a greater number of sexual partners and your partner also has a greater number of sexual partners, then you are at a greater risk of HPV.

Early sexual activity:

sex in a small age increases the risk of HPV.

Other Sexually transmitted infections (STIs):

  Having other infections such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis and HIV/AIDS increases the chances of HPV.

Weak Immune System:

if you have a weak immune system due to some other health condition then you may more likely to develop cervical cancer and have HPV.

Smoking:

smoking is also connected with squamous cell cervical cancer.

Prevention of Cervical Cancer

To reduce the risk of cervical cancer:

Get vaccinated against HPV:

vaccination is available in the market for women and girls between age 9 to 26. It should be given to the girls before being sexually active.

Routine Pap tests.

By pap tests, your cervix can be monitored or treated to prevent cervical cancer. Doctors suggest routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeat them every year.

Practice Safe Sex:

having fewer sexual partners, using condoms and delaying intercourse can reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Avoid smoking.