Cervical Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments, Prevention

Overview

Cervical cancer is a cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. The cervix refers to the lower part of the uterus that contacts the upper vagina. According to the data, human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, a sexually transmitted infection, causes over 90% of cases. However, most people with HPV infections do not develop cervical cancer.

Generally, it has no symptoms in the early stage while later symptoms may include vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse. Though bleeding after sex may not be serious, it may also indicate the presence of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer usually develops from precancerous changes more than 10 to 20 years.

Cervical cancer is different from cancers that begins in other regions of the uterus such as uterine or endometrial cancer. Cervical cancer is slow-growing, so it has a very high cure rate if it can be detected early. Vaccination against HPV has been known as an effective preventive measure. In nowadays America, more and better means of detection make a decrease in both death rate and incidence.

In America, it occurs in about 13,000 women and causes about 4,100 deaths each year. Since 1980, the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased by 45%, and the mortality rate for has declined by 49%. Survival rates of African-American women are much lower than for any other ethnic group in America.

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cause of death from cancer in women, and there were over 500,000 new cases in 2018. About 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of the deaths occur in developing countries. In low-income countries, it is one of the most common causes of cancer death. In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs and vaccination of HPV have greatly reduced rates of cervical cancer.

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause of cervical cancer is unclear currently, but it can be sure is that HPV infections plays an important role. Other risk factors may include:

  • Smoking
  • A weak immune system
  • Early sexual contact (before 16 or within a year of starting menstrual periods)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Multiple sexual partners

Symptoms

Generally, cervical cancer has no signs or symptoms until to the dangerous stage. Later symptoms may include:

  • Pain, when the cancer is advanced.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (other than during menstruation) such as after intercourse or after menopause.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, such as watery, bloody vaginal discharge with heavy and have a foul odor.
  • Pelvic pain during intercourse.
  • Kidney failure due to a urinary tract or bowel obstruction, when the cancer is advanced.

Types

The types of cervical cancer can help to determine the prognosis and treatments. The main types of cervical cancer including:

• Squamous cell carcinoma.
• Adenocarcinoma.

In the few cases, there are both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. In rare cases, it can occur in other cells in the cervix.

Diagnosis

Cervical cancer can be treated successfully if it is detected early. Most women are advised to have screening tests at 21 years old. The screening tests include:

  • Pap test
    Doctors will scrape and brush cells from cervix and then examined them in a lab for abnormalities.
  • HPV DNA test
    This can test if the cells are infected by any types of HPV which are likely to cause cervical cancer

If cervical cancer is suspected, doctors may start with a thorough examination of the cervix.

  • Punch biopsy
  • Endocervical curettage

If the results of above exams are bad, doctors may have other tests to diagnose, including:

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)
  • Cone biopsy

Treatments

The stage and type of cervical cancer and the health conditions influence the treatments of disease. Generally, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three can be used.

Surgery
The early-stage cervical cancer can be treated with surgery that remove the uterus (hysterectomy). A hysterectomy can cure early-stage cervical cancer and prevent recurrence. However, hysterectomy make it impossible to become pregnant. There are two types of surgeries.

  • Simple hysterectomy
    The cervix and uterus are removed with the cancer while it is usually an option only in very early-stage cervical cancer.
  • Radical hysterectomy
    The cervix, uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in the area are all removed with the cancer.

If your cervical cancer is in the early stage without lymph node involvement, surgery that preserves the possibility of pregnant also may be a choice.

Radiation
Radiation therapy can be used alone or with chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation may cause premenopausal women stop menstruating and begin menopause.

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy usually injects medications into a vein to kill cancer cells. Low doses of chemotherapy are often combined with radiation therapy to enhance the effects of the radiation. Higher doses of chemotherapy are used to control the advanced cervical cancer that may not be curable.

Prevention

There are several methods are helpful on the prevention of cervical cancer.

  • Regular screening tests.
  • Vaccination against HPV.
  • Having few or no sexual partners.
  • Using condoms.
  • Avoid smoking.

Home Remedies

Cancer need medical treatments from doctors because self-treatments cannot limit its growth and spread. While there are some methods to relieve the stress of treatment and keep your stronger during the treatment.

  • Maintaining good nutrition.
    You may lose your appetite during the treatment. Other common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, and sores inside the mouth. This can make you take in enough calories and protein to tolerate the side effects better.
  • Have mild exercise but don’t wear you out.
  • Get enough rest at night and take naps if needed.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid alcohol.

Please consult your doctors for your specific treatments.

Keywords: cervical cancer; HPV.

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