Its types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
Things you need to know about Cervical Cancer
What is cervical cancer? What are the types of cervical cancer?
Cancer that beings at the cervix is called cervical cancer. An abnormal growth of cells in the cervix is known as cervical cancer. Cervix is a part of the reproductive system, which is a narrow opening from the vagina to the uterus. There are two types of cervical cancer;
- Squamous cell carcinoma– 80-90% of cervical cancer begins at squamous cells. Usually, cancer begins at the transformation zone of exocervix (outer region) and endocervix (inner region).
- Adenocarcinoma– This affects the mucus-producing cells (glands) of the endocervix. This type of cervical cancer has been more common in the past 20-30 years.
In less common cases, both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma may be found. This is called as adenosquamous or mixed carcinoma of the cervix.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Early signs and symptoms of cervical cancer may not be evident. However, in advanced stages, some of the following signs and symptoms can be present:
- Abnormal bleeding during sexual intercourse, menstrual cycle, after menopause
- Pain in the pelvis, not related to menstruation
- Watery and usually thick vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination.
What are the causes of cervical cancer?
The exact cause of cervical cancer is not very clear. However, it is believed that the Human PapillomaVirus (HPV) plays a pivotal role in the development of cervical cancer. Some other factors that can increase the chances of developing cervical cancer include:
- History of sexually transmitted disease (STDs)
- Multiple and early sexual intercourse
- Compromised immune system
What are the complications of cervical cancer?
The complications of cervical cancer range from minor ones such as minor vaginal bleeding and frequent urination to severe complications such as kidney failure and major vaginal bleeding. Few other complications due to the treatment of cervical cancer include:
- Early menopause
- Vaginal opening becomes narrow
What are the stages of cervical cancer?
Staging of cancer is done to assess the size and extent of spread. It also helps the oncologist to decide the treatment plan.
Cancer staging is done in two ways: TNM (Tumour, Node, Metastasis) staging and Number staging from 1 to 4. Staging for cancer of female reproductive organs are also done using FIGO (International federation of gynaecology and obstetrics) staging system. For cervical cancer, the FIGO stages are the same as the AJCC stages (American Joint Committee on Cancer).
Stages of cervical cancer:
Stage 1: Stage 1 cervical cancer is characterized by cancerous growth from the surface of the cervix into the deeper tissues of the cervix and into the body of the uterus. The cancer is localized and has not spread to the lymph nodes yet.
Stage 2: Stage 2 cervical cancer has grown beyond the cervix and uterus, but confined to the walls of the pelvis or the lower part of the vagina. The cancer is usually localized and may or may not have spread to lymph nodes.
Stage 3: In stage 3A, cancer has spread to the lower part of the vagina or wall of the pelvis. As cancer progresses, one or both the ureters may be blocked causing kidney problems. Cancer may or may not have spread to lymph nodes.
Stage 4: In stage 4A, cancer has spread to the bladder, rectum or outside the pelvis. As cancer progresses to stage 4B, it spreads to lymph nodes, bones, distant parts of the body such as lungs and liver.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
In case of any visible sign or symptom, you should seek consultation with your gynecologist. It is best to avail treatment from a hospital with a multidisciplinary team such as a gynecologist, oncologist, radiologist and radiation therapist and a trained medical support staff. The hospital should also have support services for cancer diagnosis and infrastructure support like radiation therapy, chemotherapy etc.
Your gynecologist or oncologist will be able to diagnose cervical cancer by:
- Medical History
- Physical examination
- Tests that may include:
- – Cervical biopsy
- – Intravenous urography
- – Computerised tomography (CT) scan
- – Magnetic Resonance tomography (MRI)
- – Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
How is cervical cancer treated?
The treatment options for cervical cancer are based on the type and stage of cervical cancer and other factors like overall health, age, and sensitivity to certain medications. Some of the treatment options that may be used in combination include:
- Radiation therapy: Use of high-powered energy beams to destroy cancer cells
- Chemotherapy: Use of drugs to destroy cancer cells
- Radiosurgery: Also known as stereotactic body radiotherapy, where intense radiation is used instead of surgery
- Targeted drug therapy: Use of drugs that act on cancer cells and selectively destroy only cancer cells
- Biological therapy: Makes use of the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells
- Palliative care: Intended to improve the quality of life of cancer patients who may not be amenable to treatment.
What is the survival rate of cervical cancer?
Based on the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and depending on the stage cancer, the 5-year survival rates range between 93% with Stage 0 to 15% with stage IV B cervical cancers.
How can cervical cancer be prevented?
The risk of having cervical cancer can be reduced by:
- Avoid smoking
- Getting vaccinated for HPV
- Having a regular Pap test- once in every three to five years
- Having safe sexual intercourse and avoid multiple partners
What factors govern the cost of cervical cancer?
The cost of cervical cancer is governed by several factors, such as
- Availability of skilled and specialized multidisciplinary team and advanced hospital set-up
- Medical condition of the patient and duration of hospital stay
- Time to recovery
- Pre and post hospitalization expenses pertaining to the need for medications and additional investigations.
- Complexity and stage of cancer
- Age of the patient
- Co-existing diseases
- Hospital stays and home care
- Imaging tests – equipment, medicine and radiologist fees
- Chemotherapy – chemotherapy cycles, medicines, supplements, and procedure
- Radiation therapy – extent of body exposure, intensity of radiation, implants or external radiation, and radiologist fees
- Surgery – surgeon and team, operating room fees, equipment, medicines, and other utilities
To know more about cervical cancer and its treatment, you can request for a callback and our cervical cancer specialists will call you and answer all your queries.
Related blogs you may like to read:
- Mayo Clinic. Cervical Cancer. Available at:https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervical-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352506. Accessed on 30 March, 2018
- National health services. Cervical Cancer. Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-cancer/treatment/. Accessed on 30 March, 2018
- American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer. Available at:https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.html. Accessed on 30 March, 2018
- National Cervical Cancer Coalition. Cervical cancer overview. Available at: http://www.nccc-online.org/hpvcervical-cancer/cervical-cancer-overview/. Accessed on 30 March, 2018