Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that originates from the cervix. Its occurrence is linked to an unusual growth of cervical cells, cells that can migrate to other parts of the body to impact negatively on other cells. Although cases of this type of cancer have reduced significantly over the years due to screening programs, it still remains the fourth type of cancer that affects and kills women across the world. Unfortunately, about 80% of cervical cancer cases are reported in developing countries where screening programs have not taken root.
Like any other type of cancer, it is impossible to know whether you have cervical cancer or not. This is because it does not present any symptoms at the initial stage. It is only after it has established and matured that you can experience unusual vaginal bleeding, pain in your pelvic region and pain during sexual intercourse. It is also possible to notice traces of blood after sex.
Because it continues to grow and re-establish itself in other parts of your body, you are most likely to experience loss of appetite, general body weakness, swelling of the legs, back pain, heavy vaginal bleeding and urine/fecal incontinence.
Of all causes and possible causes of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for causing about 80% of all recorded cases. This is one of the most common types of virus that you can contract during sexual intercourse. Although there are over 100 different strains of HPV, only a few are responsible for causing unusual growth of cervical cells. In particular, HPV 16 and 18 have been identified as being responsible for causing 70% of all recorded cases of cervical cancer. The other strains of HPV are responsible for causing other sexual diseases including genital warts.
It, therefore, turns out that cervical cancer is a risk disease that is easily avoidable. Preventing yourself from contracting HPV by using condoms during sexual intercourse is just one of the ways you can protect yourself. This applies in case you have multiple sexual partners.
Smoking cigarette, whether actively or passively also puts you at risk of developing cervical cancer. Long-term use of contraceptives is also believed to encourage the development of cervical cancer. Indeed, studies conducted reveal that women who use oral contraceptives continuously for over 5 years are three times more at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Similarly, it has been established that attaining pregnancy and giving birth on a regular basis puts you at risk of developing cervical cancer compared to a woman who has few deliveries.
Correct diagnosis is key to effective treatment of cervical cancer and there are several tests normally performed to detect the disease.
It is common for doctors to recommend medical imaging to rule out the presence of any other health condition or disease before performing cervical cancer tests. One of the most common tests usually performed is Pap smear test. This test is normally not conclusive since it tends to present false result. This is why a biopsy of the cervix is normally performed after Pap smear for confirmation of initial Pap smear test. Biopsy of the cervix involves colposcopy, which is the magnified visual examination of the cervix with the use of such aids as forceps and solution of acetic acid to reveal any unusual growth of cells on the cervix.
Tests designed to diagnose cervical cancer are not limited to confirming presence of the disease. The tests also reveal the stage or extent at which the disease has developed. This informs a medical expert of the best treatment technique to adopt in case presence of the disease is confirmed. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) indicate stages of cervical cancer as squamous carcinoma (Stage 1A), which is the most common, adenocarcinoma (Stage 1B), adenosquamous carcinoma (Stage 2A), small carcinoma ((Stage 2B), neuroendocrine tumor (Stage 3B), glassy carcinoma (Stage 3A) and villa glandular adenocarcinoma (Stage 4B).
Actual treatment for cervical cancer depends on the stage at which it had developed. Treating stage 1A type of cervical cancer is normally by hysterectomy, which is a surgical treatment performed to remove the whole cervix (uterus). Treating Stage 2A may only involve surgical removal of surrounding lymph nodes. Other treatment options available depending on the stage of development include radiation therapy, brachytherapy, and chemotherapy among other treatment techniques.
Like with any other type of cancer, cervical cancer is a killer disease. However, advancements made in the medical field have made it possible for more lives to be saved. Generally, over 80% of affected women who receive the right treatment survive. This applies to women diagnosed with Stage 1A and 1B type of cervical cancer. However, the survival rate decreases with the other stages.
Cervical cancer is a deadly disease and the only way of dealing with it is through prevention. It is also recommended that you go for cervical screening at least once or twice in a year. This makes it possible to detect any unusual growth of cervical cells, which can be addressed in good time. It is also recommended that you go for HPV vaccination, which provides protection against the virus for up to 8 years.