What Are The Basics of Cervical Cancer?

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix–the lowest portion of a women’s uterus.

For women with cervical cancer, the cells of the cervix grow abnormally and invade other tissues or organs of the body, most notably the lungs, liver, bladder, vagina and rectum.

Cervical cancer develops slowly, so it can be prevented when in its precancerous stage if adequate steps are taken.

 

What are the types of cervical cancer?

The main types of cervical cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinoma: It begins in the column-shaped glandular cells lining the cervical canal.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: It begins in the thin, flat cells lining the outer part of the cervix. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

 

What causes cervical cancer?

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) plays a great role for women in getting cervical cancer. Certain types of HPV may trigger cancers involving vulva, vagina, penis, anus, tongue, and tonsils, but HPV is very common, most women with the virus never develop cervical cancer.

So, besides HPV, there still exist other risk factors that may lead to cervical cancer:

  • Early sexual activity: Girls who begin sexual activity before 16 or within a year of starting their menstrual periods are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Many sexual partners: The more the number of sexual partners, the higher the risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • A weak immune system: The weaker your immune system, the higher the risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Other STIs (Sexually transmitted infections): Other types of STIs like HIV/AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea will increase the risk of getting cervical cancer.
  • Taking oral contraceptives frequently: It would lead to a greater exposure to HPV.
  • Smoking: Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.

What are the warning signs of cervical cancer?

Precancerous-stage or early-stage cervical cancer may have no signs or symptoms, but when it progressed into invasive stages, the common symptoms may include:

  • Bloody, thick, watery vaginal discharge and foul odor.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as after intercourse, between menstrual periods, after menopause, after douching, or after a pelvic exam.
  • Pelvic pain which is not affected by menstrual cycle.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Low back pain.
  • Swollen legs because of fluid buildup.
  • Swollen abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
  • Diarrhea, pain or bleeding from the rectum upon.
  • Increased urinary frequency

If you have the symptoms above, please seek for help as soon as possible.

 

How to diagnose cervical cancer?

There are several tests to detect or determine the stages of cervical cancer, which include:

  • HPV DNA test: It tests cells collected from cervix for infection with any of the types of HPV that may lead to cervical cancer, it is advisable for women age 30 and older.
  • Pap test: It detects abnormal cells in the cervix through scraping and brushing cells from the cervix.
  • Colposcope: It obtains tissue through punch biopsy and endocervical curettage.
  • Electrical wire loop: It uses a thin, low-voltage electrical wire to obtain a small tissue sample, it can be done under local anesthesia in the office.
  • Cone biopsy: It obtains deeper layer of cervical cells for laboratory testing, it can be done under general anesthesia in hospital.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays, CT scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and PET (positron emission tomography) can help determine the stages of cervical cancer.
  • Visual examination of your bladder and rectum: It uses special scopes to see inside your bladder and rectum to determine the stages of cervical cancer.

What are the treatments for cervical cancer?

The common treatments include:

  • Surgery: It is the main treatment for early-stage cervical cancers, but it may affect your ability to bear babies. Common surgeries related to cervical cancer include conization, hysterectomy, modified radical hysterectomy, trachelectomy, pelvic exenteration.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy would be suggested if the cancer spreads beyond cervix, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy are two ways of radiation therapies.
  • Chemotherapy: It uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: It also uses drugs like bevacizumab (Avastin) to kill cancer cells.
  • Supportive (palliative) care: It provides relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.

 

What are the survival rates for women with cervical cancer?

The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 15-39 is about 89.3%.
The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 40-49 is about 79.7%.
The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 50-59 is about 68.6%.
The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 60-69 is about 53.5%.
The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 70-79 is about 39.5%.
The five-year survival rate of cervical cancer for women between 80-89 is about 25.6%.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.