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Cervical Cancer: All you need to know

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer in which there is an abnormal growth of cells that occurs in a woman’s cervix which is located at the entrance of the uterus from the vagina.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be detected in the United States in 2022.

Cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccines if given at the right time. Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treated cancers when found early and well monitored. It can still be treated even if it’s found in a later stage.

SYMPTOMS

 

There may be few or no symptoms in the early stages. However, as time passes, certain symptoms may begin to emerge:

  • Vaginal bleeding in between period cycles or right after sex
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abrupt weight loss

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend you go to your gynecologist.

DIAGNOSIS

 

Cervical cancer is primarily diagnosed in the following ways :

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear):

Your doctor can use a swab to take a sample of cells from your cervix. This sample is further sent for lab analysis.

A Pap smear can also detect alterations in your cervical cells that indicate future cancer development. This helps in identifying whether you are at risk of developing cancer in the future.

Your gynecologist could advise you to get additional tests based on your age when you receive your Pap test. The importance of a pap smear at different ages is explained in detail as follows:

  •   21-29 years

As per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), It’s recommended that you start getting your pap smear tests done from the age of 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may recommend you to wait three years before having another one.

  •   30-65 years

In this age group, the doctor usually suggests that you take the Pap test along with the HPV test. If the results are normal then it’s recommended that you wait for 5 years before getting another test done.

  •   65 and above

Many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. As per the American cancer society, about 20 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in women who are 65 and above. However, even then treatment is available and it can be cured in most cases.

  • HPV test

The HPV (Human papillomavirus) test is a cervical cancer screening test, but it does not determine whether you have cancer. Rather, the test looks for HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer, in your body. Cervical cancer is increased by some kinds of HPV, such as types 16 and 18.

Knowing if you have a kind of HPV that puts you at high risk for cervical cancer allows you and your doctor to make more informed decisions about your health care.

An HPV test is usually combined with a Pap smear, which collects cells from your cervix to evaluate for abnormalities or cancer. An HPV test can be done using the same sample as a Pap test or by a second sample taken from the cervical canal.

The HPV test is usually done for women who are aged 30 and above. Under the age of 30, the HPV test is neither recommended nor helpful. HPV is quite common and spreads through sexual contact.

Learn more about the Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer and getting it right here.

Causes

 

There are certain risk factors for cervical cancer, such as:

Unsafe sexual practices
One of the primary causes of cervical cancer. In fact, WHO states that almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.

Smoking
Believe it or not, smoking can cause cervical cancer! Women who smoke have been found to have tobacco by-products in their cervical mucus. The DNA of cervix cells is thought to be damaged by these compounds, which may lead to the development of cervical cancer, as per researchers.

Weakened Immune System
If the immune system is affected by another health issue and HPV is detected, a woman is more likely to develop cervical cancer. The immune system ensures the removal of cancer cells as well as the stopping of their growth and spread. In HIV-positive women, a cervical pre-cancer can progress to invasive cancer more rapidly.

Contraceptives
There is evidence that long-term use of oral contraceptives (OCs) increases the risk of cervical cancer. According to research, the risk of cervical cancer increases the longer a woman uses OCs, but the risk decreases if the OCs are stopped, and returns to normal many years later. A woman and her doctor should talk about whether the advantages of using OCs outweigh the risks.

While the above are the most common causes, there are also other causes such as

  • A diet that lacks nutrition
  • Having multiple pregnancies
  • Early pregnancy
  • Family history of cervical cancer

Although cervical cancer can be treated, prevention is always preferred. The following are some practices that can be implemented to reduce the risk of cervical cancer:

  • While contraceptive pills may be used once occasionally, it’s always better to use other methods, such as condoms.
  • Pre-cancerous symptoms of the cervix can be detected via Pap smear tests, which will then need to be monitored or treated to prevent further infection. Routine Pap tests should be started at the age of 21 and repeated every few years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Quit smoking. It will help in the prevention of cervical cancer as well as other health conditions that are caused by smoking.
  • Fruits in general are suggested in diets. They are packed with many nutrients and vitamins, especially citrus fruits.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

 

Cervical cancer can be treated once it has been diagnosed. The type and stage of cervical cancer, as well as the doctor’s recommendation and overall health, all determine the treatments.

Surgery

Cervical cancer is most commonly treated with surgery, especially if the cancer is detected early. There are several different types of surgery options that can be considered based on the stage of cancer and the type of cancer detected. Surgical treatment can involve a hysterectomy (removal of ovaries and fallopian tube) or just the affected area.

Radiotherapy

In this form of treatment, radiologists use high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells. A combination of radiation therapy and low-dose weekly chemotherapy is commonly utilized in the early stages of cervical cancer. During this treatment, the Radiation therapist may suggest avoiding sexual intercourse until a few weeks after the treatment.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for the treatment of cervical cancer is one of the commonly recommended forms of treatment by doctors. It improves, enhances, and restores the body’s immune system by using materials created by the body or in a laboratory which in turn enables the body to fight the disease. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), an immune checkpoint inhibitor, is used to treat cervical cancer that has recurred or spread to other parts of the body during or after chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of medications to fight cancer cells by preventing them from growing, dividing, and producing new ones. For cervical cancer, chemotherapy is given along with radiotherapy for optimum outcomes.

A cancer diagnosis can catch anyone off guard. Cervical cancer is a diagnosis that affects everyone differently. It’s always better to be well informed in case you or your loved ones are diagnosed.

ACTC is one of the best Florida Cancer centers. Our patients are our top priority at ACTC. Our providers, specialists, and support staff are caring, skilled, and experienced in their professions. They are committed to excellence, as well as the health, happiness, and, most importantly, the comfort and speed with which their patients progress.

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