What is Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer affects the cells of the cervix. Cervix is the connector between the uterus and the vagina. It is situated at the lower part of the uterus.
For most of the Cervical Cancers, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), an infection spread by sexual contact is the primary cause. In general, a woman’s immunity system restrains the HPV from affecting or doing any harm to the body. For very few number of women, the infection does not die in the body and remains in the cervix for years. During these years, sometimes, HPV infection turns few cells at the top of the cervix to cancerous cells.
Periodical check-ups of the cervix and vaccination against HPV infection both work for preventing Cervical Cancer.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
At an early stage, cervical cancer does not generally show any symptom. When the cancer reaches more-advanced stages, the probable signs of cervical cancer are:
- Vaginal bleeding in multiple occasions (after intercourse, between periods, after menopause)
- Heavy, watery vaginal discharge with a strong foul odour
- Sharp pelvic pain during intercourse
- Bleeding after a pelvic examination
- Kidney failure (because of bowel obstruction or urinary tract obstruction)
- Pain during urination
Cervix cancer causes
In a normal human body, a set of cells grows and dies through their normal cycle. Cancerous cells grow in multitudes and do not die.
Apart from HPV infection, the other causes are still not very clear. Maximum of the women encounter with HPV infection in their lifetime but very less of them actually end up developing Cervical Cancer. Therefore, certain lifestyle choices and environmental factors might influence.
Uterine cancer, endometrial cancer and Cervical Cancer come with almost identical symptoms. Therefore, it is sometimes perplexing to diagnose correctly without a proper pathological test.
Types of Cervical Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma
At the outer part of the cervix, there is a layer of thin, flat cells lining called Squamous cells. This lining projects into the vagina. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cervical Cancer affecting this part.
Adenocarcinoma cancer affects the cervical canal. The column-shaped glandular cells are directly affected.
Rarely, a cervix can be affected by both types of Cervical Cancers.
Risk factors of Cervical Cancer
Multiple sexual partners
The more number of sexual partners one has encountered with and the more number of partners each of them has encountered with increase the chance of Cervical Cancer.
Early sexual activity
Indulging into sexual activity before a certain age can increase the risk of cervical cancer.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
If a woman is infected with other Sexually Transmitted Infections like chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS, it increases the chance of having HPV.
Weak immune system
If the patient’s immune system is genetically weak or it has been weakened by some separate health condition or infection, she is at a greater risk of developing HPV.
Squamous cell cervical cancer has a direct connection with smoking habit.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Though there is no concrete preventive method of Cervical Cancer apart from vaccination, here are few of the most effective preventions of Cervical Cancer:
- Getting vaccination against HPV
- Keep doing a periodical pap test
- Building up the habit of safe and protected sex
- Reducing smoking and drinking
When to Seek Medical Care for Cervical Cancer
Multiple symptoms of Cervical cancer including bleeding and pain can actually happen for multiple reasons apart from Cervical Cancer. The severity can largely depend on the patient’s age, medical history and environmental condition.
If you are bleeding after menopause, this situation is never normal and requires immediate medical help. Excessive heavy bleeding during period and multiple bleeding between 2 cycles are also not normal and one should seek medical attention.
Vaginal bleeding after a vigorous sex is often normal if this happens occasionally. But, if the bleeding occurs regularly and often it is quite painful, the situation needs immediate medical help.
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms come with weakness, fatigue, light-headedness and actually fainting, the situation is most likely to be quite serious.
Cervical Cancer Examinations and Tests
When this is true for all the types of cancers; especially for Cervical Cancer, early detection is the key for the cure. Cancers that affect only the small surface of the cervix have quite a fold better chance to be successful than cancers that spread into the other parts of the body.
Pap smear test helps tremendously in early detection of cervical cancer. In this test, some cells of the cervix are collected and tested for any structural and growth abnormality.
When the Pap smear test is showing some abnormalities but the other physical examination results are normal, then generally doctors go with Colposcopy. The cervix is inspected with a microscope called colposcope. The cervix area is dyed with acetic acid for easy recognition of any abnormal cell growth.
The loop electrosurgical excision procedure is another method of diagnosis where tissue sample from the cervix is collected with an electrified loop of wire.