Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer affecting the women. This type of cancer starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb) that opens at the top of the vagina. This cancer develops very slowly and begins as a precancerous condition called dysplasia. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), which is a common virus that spreads through sexual intercourse. All women should begin cervical cancer screening when they are 21 years old. It is the easiest female cancer to prevent with regular Pap smears and follow-up. Screening should be done every 3 years in women with no history of abnormal Pap smear. Depending on the stage of cervical cancer , treatment such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemtherapy are available.
Signs and Symptoms
In its initial stage, there are no symptoms of cervical cancer. However, its symptoms include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods and after intercourse
- Post-menopausal bleeding, if you are not on HRT or have stopped it for six weeks
- Continuous vaginal discharge
- Unusual and/or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Pelvic pain
- Single swollen leg
- Weight loss
- Heavier periods that usual
Causes of Cervical cancer
This type of cancer starts in the cells on the surface of the cervix. Its major causes are:
- Not getting the HPV vaccine
- Poor economic status
- Weakened immune system
- Unhealthy sexual intercourse
- Multiple sexual partners
- Intercourse with people involved in high-risk sexual activities
The treatment of cervical cancer generally depends on various factors – cancer stage, size and shape of the tumor, woman's age and general health. In earlier days, cervical cancer was being cured by the removal of cancerous tissues. However, nowadays surgeries have undergone heavy advancements. Different types of treatment options are:
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) – This procedure employs electricity to remove abnormal tissue.
- Cryotherapy – The procedure involves freezing abnormal cells.
- Laser therapy – This therapy uses light to destroy cancerous tissue.
- Radical hysterectomy – It involves removal of the uterus and much of the surrounding tissues, including lymph nodes and the upper part of the vagina.
- Pelvic exenteration – A rare type of surgery in which all of the organs of the pelvis, including the bladder and rectum, are removed.
- Radiation therapy – Internal or external radiation may be used to treat cancer that has spread beyond the pelvis, or cancer that has returned.
- Chemotherapy – It involves the use of certain drugs that kill cancer tissues.