Cervical Cancer A leading cause of cancer mortality among women
Cervix is located between the vagina and uterus. Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is considered as the primary cause for cervical cancer. However, it is not a rule that all women with HPV will develop cervical cancer. HPV may be present in women at some point of time, in some in may remain dormant for a long time. In others, the HPV affects the surface cells of the cervix, and causes cancer.
There are no signs of cancer in the early stages of cervical cancer. The signs and symptoms of cervical cancer include, vaginal bleeding, bloody discharge and pelvic pain. The vaginal bleeding is more during and after sexual intercourse. This may also be seen during periods and post-menopause period. The watery and bloody vaginal discharge may have a foul smelling odor. The pelvic pain is very severe during and after sexual intercourse.
Like in other forms of cancer, cervical cancer occurs when cells of the cervix turn into abnormal cells and multiply rapidly. These abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). If left undetected, these cells may spread to other parts of the body. Though human papillomavirus (HPV) is considered as the primary cause, environment and lifestyle choices may also cause for cervical cancer.
There are two types of cervical cancer – Squamous cell carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the outer part of the cervix. Most of the cervical cancers are of this type only. Adenocarcinoma begins in the column shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
Risk Factors & Complications
The risk of cervical cancer is found in men and women with two or more sexual partners. Even in those, who had coitus at an early age show signs of cervical cancer. Carriers of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS may also pose the risk of HIV are also susceptible to HPV. Falling immune system also makes the person greatly susceptible to HPV attack. The impact of smoking has its disastrous effects, and leads to occurrence of squamous cell cervical cancer.
Tests & Diagnosis
Cervical cancer, if detected at the early stage can be treated effectively. The diagnosis of cervical cancer includes Pap Test, and HPV DNA Test. The treatment of cervical cancer includes punch biopsy (cervical tissue sent for investigation), and Endocervical curettage (scrapes a tissue sample from the cervix). In addition to these, the electrical wire loop as well as the cone biopsy is done under local anesthesia.
On confirming the presence of cervical cancer, the doctor recommends for imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging and PET). All these imaging tests help the doctor to know the stage of cervical cancer, and its spread to other parts of the body.
Stage one of cervical cancer is marked by cancer cells confined to cervix alone. Stage two is marked by spreading of cancer cells to the vagina. Stage three features cancer spreading to the lower portion of the vagina and inside the pelvic side wall. The fourth stage is marked by cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body like bladder, rectum, lungs or bones.
Treatments & Drugs
The treatment for cervical cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. The surgery process includes conization (cold knife conization, loop elecrosurgical excision procedure, and laser surgery), radical hysterectomy, modified hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and pelvic exenteration.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also suggested by the doctor to stop the growth of cancer cells, killing them or stopping them from dividing. Radiation and chemotherapy are recommended depending on the stage of cervical cancer.