Cervical Cancer is the second most common type of cancer that is affecting women next to breast cancer. A recent survey confirmed that lack of awareness is the reason behind the death of individuals. To create various outreach programs are being held in many parts of the world. Even the urban women are not aware of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and its prevention of Cervical cancer. Many physicians suggested that regular diagnosis may let you know the problem in its initial stages which can be treated successfully. So, Know the complete information of Cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer which affects the cervix of the women. The cervix is the last part of the uterus which opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer is the 3rd most dangerous cancer type that affects women. Women smokers are more at the risk of acquiring this disease. So, to create the awareness among the women population January is declared as cervical cancer awareness month.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
For any disease, it is crucial for us to know the exact causes, because if we are aware the reasons, it will be easy for us to treat and prevent. So, Here we have provided the cervical cancer causes which may help you. Go through them to Know them in detail.
Also read: Breast cancer causes
If a woman uses oral contraceptives for a long term, then they may have the greater risk of acquiring cervical cancer. Those women who have a long term association with oral contraceptives, i.e., for more than or equal to 5 to 9 years have about three times more risk compared to the regular ones. And the women who use them for more than a decade may get this cancer at an early age.
It may sound little shocking but in fact having more pregnancies may result in having an increased risk of cervical cancer. Among the women infected with HPV, and those who have had seven or more pregnancies will have four times more the risk of cancer compared with the ladies with no pregnancies.
Read more: Top 10 signs of pregnancy
According to a recent study, Human papillomavirus 16 and 18 are the two strains which are responsible for 75% of cervical cancer cases. This virus can spread from one person to other through direct sexual contact. So, Women who possess many sexual partners are at a greater risk of acquiring this disease.
Smoking is one of the major cause behind cervical cancer. Both active and passive types of smoking are harmful to anyone. The current smokers and former smokers are at a greater risk of cervical cancer when compared to nonsmoking people.
We all know that smoking nicotine containing products causes cancer, but it also aids in the development of the Human Papilloma Virus and indirectly it improves the chances of acquiring cervical cancer. Also, it not only assist in the development of HPV but also increase the chance of getting cervical cancer if a woman is already HPV-positive. So, women with both HPV and Smoking habit are extremely at the risk of cancer.
There are few more causes of cervical cancer. They are
- If a women have Many sexual partners: As said earlier, Cervical cancer-causing HPV types are spread through direct sexual contact with an infected individual. So, the Women who have had many sexual partners will be at a higher risk of becoming infected with HPV. So, it is the reason for developing cervical cancer.
- Women with weak Immune system: In the conditions of HIV/AIDS, or the women who have undergone through organ transplantation will be at a greater risk. Due to the Immunosuppressant medications usage, they may acquire this cancer.
- If subjected to Long-term mental stress: Women who experience high levels of stress over a sustained period may have a greater risk.
- Giving birth to a child at a very young age: The women who gave birth to a child before the age of 17 are more prone to develop cervical cancer when compared to the women who had their first baby at the age of 25 or above.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections or sexually transmitted diseases (STD/ STI): All the women who have infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis will be at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Poor Socio-economic status: Many studies which were conducted in several nations reveal that women living in the deprived areas have more risk of acquiring cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
The worst part of this cervical cancer is it is mostly asymptomatic. Even if the early symptoms of cervical cancer appear it is tough for any individual to identify them as cervical cancer symptoms and signs. It is all because Precancerous cervical cell changes and early stage cancers of the cervix do not exhibit any symptoms. So, because of this reason many physicians recommend regular screening tests. The cervix tests include Pap smear test, and HPV tests can help in identifying the precancerous cell changes much earlier than the symptoms appear and so, further regular treatment for cervical cancer results in the prevention of the development of cervical cancer.
But, a few people may experience few symptoms in the advanced stages. So, know the possible symptoms and signs of Cervical Cancer.
Must read: Signs of Breast cancer
- Abnormal bleeding between menstrual cycle.
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Mild to severe bleeding after Shower
- Slight Bleeding after the pelvic examination
- Bleeding after menopause
- Severe Pelvic pain which is not associated with your menstrual cycle.
- Thick or unusual white color discharge. The discharge may be watery, thick, and possibly have a foul or unpleasant odor.
- Frequent Urination.
- Pain and itchiness during urination.
So, whenever you notice any of the symptoms do not neglect and consult your physician. These symptoms may also be related to other health problems and not related cervical cancer. But, still, you need definitive treatment for it too.
Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer
How to detect cervical cancer? Are there any diagnosing tests in particular? Yes, there are few diagnosing tests for cervical cancer. Once if the physician suspects that the particular individual may have cervical cancer then the doctor may refer the following tests to confirm the situation
Read more: Diagnosis of Breast cancer
The key for the treatment of cervical cancer or any cancer is an identifying disease in its initial stages. So, for this identification, screening tests will be helpful. The tests include
Pelvic Exam: It is a general examination that is performed by the physician. In this process, the doctor will examine the vagina, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, uterus, and rectum. The doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina and observes at the vagina and cervix for any general signs of the disease. The doctor may also insert one or two fingers of one hand wearing gloves which are lubricated into the vagina and places the other hand over the lower abdomen. It helps to know the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. They may also check for the presence of any lumps inside.
Pap smear test: In the pap smear test, the physician may scrape or brush away few cells from your cervix and will send them to the lab for a test for testing abnormalities. In this test, we can find the abnormal cells in the cervix, which may include cancer cells and pre-cancerous cells that indicate acquiring cancer shortly.
HPV DNA test: The HPV DNA test involves the testing of cells that are collected from the cervix. In this test, HPV may be detected which is one of the main reasons behind cervical cancer. In general, this test is a better option for women under 30 years and older or for younger women with an abnormal Pap smear.
2. Diagnosing Tests:
In the screening tests, if anything related to the cervix is abnormal then the doctor may recommend these tests to confirm cervical cancer. For this, the physician may use colposcopy which is a magnifying instrument used to check the abnormal cells.
During the colposcopic examination, the doctor may collect the sample of the cervical cells (biopsy) and will send for further laboratory testing. So, for confirmation of cervical cancer, the surgeon may use any of the following techniques
If there are any abnormal cells found in a Pap test, then your doctor may perform a biopsy. It is a test where the surgeon will use a sharp tool to pinch off a piece of tissue from the cervical tissue. A sample of the tissue is removed from the cervix and is viewed under a microscope by a laboratory technician or a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
In this test, a small spoon-shaped instrument (curet) or a thin brush is used to scrape a tissue sample from the cervix. The collected tissue samples are checked under a microscope for any signs of cancer.
If your body can not support the punch biopsy or endocervical curettage tests, then the physician may perform the tests like cone biopsy and loop test. They are
- An electrical wire loop, with low voltage electricity passing through is inserted to obtain the tissue sample. As it involves moderate pain, the physician may give anesthesia.
- A cone biopsy is a process in which the deeper cells of the cervix can be obtained for laboratory testing. A cone biopsy may be done in a hospital under general anesthesia.
Treatment for Cervical Cancer
Cancer treatment is not a simple thing; sometimes they are too complex. But, we can’t just say them they are impossible too. Because these days many advanced techniques are available which can treat cancer completely and extend your lifespan. So, know the latest treatments for cervical cancer which can save many lives. The treatment for most of the stages of cervical cancer includes:
Read More: Treatment of Breast cancer
- Radiation therapy.
- Targeted Therapy.
As a part of the treatment of Cervical cancer, physicians may suggest you undergo surgery. But, there are different types of surgeries present. So, the surgeon may select the suitable surgery depending on the extent and location of cancer and also whether you want to have children in future. There are three types of operations available for cervical cancer.
- Radical trachelectomy – In this type of surgery, the physician may remove the cervix and its surrounding tissue. Also, the upper part of the vagina is also removed in radical trachelectomy.
- Hysterectomy – In this type of surgery, both the cervix and womb are removed. In some advanced cases of cervical cancer, ovaries, and fallopian tubes are also removed to ensure complete elimination of the cancer cells.
- Pelvic exenteration – The Pelvic exenteration includes a massive operation where the cervix, bladder, vagina, womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes and rectum are removed.
Side Effects of Surgery:
- Pain and discomfort for an extended period.
- May face few Problems related to bladder or bowel function
- Lymphedema (swelling in legs)
- Early Menopause
- Sexuality issues
- Internal scar tissue (adhesions)
Chemotherapy is a condition where various Anti-Neoplastics are used to treat cancer completely or to hinder its progression. In some cases, the Chemotherapy may be combined with radiotherapy to cure Cervical cancer. The chemotherapy may involve in using a single medication called Cis-Platin or a combination of various medicines to destroy the cancer cells.Chemotherapy is rendered using an intravenous drip on an outpatient basis, so you’ll be able to go home once you’ve received your dose.
This therapy is administered using an IV drip (Intravenous) so that the patient after taking the dose may go to their home, instead of staying in the hospital as an in-patient. But, there is an adverse side of this therapy which may induce several symptoms of illness. They are
- Nausea, Vomiting and loss of appetite.
- Mouth ulcers
- feeling restless and may not have sufficient energy to perform regular tasks.
- Few chemotherapy medications can cause severe damage to your kidneys, so you may need to have regular blood tests to assess the health of your kidneys.
- Anemic condition- It is due to the hindered RBC production. Due to this, the patient may feel depressed, weak and may quickly acquire various infections as the WBC count also reduces.
- Hair loss – It is one of the most common symptoms seen in any cancer treatment. But, once you complete the therapy, within 6-10 months your hair start growing.
Radiotherapy is a treatment used to treat most of the cancers. It is the treatment which involves the use of high-energy radiation. Almost, more than 60% of all people with suffering from cancer will undergo this treatment. In some cases of benign cancer also radiotherapy is useful. Radiation is given in two different ways. They are
- Externally – In this process, a radiation machine will focus the beams of high-energy waves into the pelvis of the patient. These rays can efficiently destroy the cancer cells.
- Internally – Internal treatment for cervical cancer involves in inserting a radioactive implant inside the vagina and cervix of the patient.
But, instead of using any one of the radiation therapies, most of the doctors recommend combination therapy. But, there are some side effects of this radiotherapy too. They are
- Diarrhea and painful urination.
- Moderate to severe bleeding from your vagina or rectum.
- Feeling tired and restless.
- Vomitings and Nausea.
- Burning sensation near pelvic region which is similar to sunburn.
- Pain during sex, because of the vaginal narrowing.
- Damage to Urinary bladder and bowel, which may lead to incontinence.
- Moderate to severe damage to the ovaries. It is usually seen in menopause stage, but in this case, you may notice early menopause.
4. Targeted Therapy:
In conventional chemotherapy, the drugs were given which may show the effect on the healthy cells too. Then there will be damage to the healthy cells which may show severe side effects. But, in targeted therapy, the drugs will target only these cancerous cells through which the side effects may be reduced by more than 80%. So, targeted therapy is the new advancement in the cancer treatment.
Complications/ Risk Factors of Cervical Cancer
Complications of cervical cancer appear only when the cancer is in its final stage or as the side effects of the treatment. So, it is better to the complications involved in the treatment before you proceed to accept it. Here are few complications you may face when you get treatment for cervical cancer, or you may face in the last stage of cancer.
Side effects of treatment:
In some cases of Cervical cancer, ovaries are surgically removed. And in some other situations, the ovaries may effect at the time of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. So, in these conditions the patients may acquire early menopause. Menopause is a stage where regular menstrual cycle ceases. At that time it shows some symptoms like
- hot flushes
- Dryness in vagina
- Loss of interest in sex
- Fluctuations in mood
- The urgency in urination which leads to leakage of urine when sneezing or coughing.
- Swatting during night time in particular
- Your bone strength may reduce, and they become soft and brittle.
Edema is a condition where your body retains excess fluids. If this is caused due to improper functioning of lymph nodes, then the condition is called lymphedema. In some cases of treatment, the physician may remove the lymph nodes in your pelvis. In that status, we may observe the disruption in the ordinary working of your lymphatic system.
One of the primary functions of the lymphatic system is to flush out the excess fluids from our body tissue. So, the body parts in the lymphedema condition may swell.
3. Vaginal narrowing:
The patients who have undergone the Radiotherapy for cervical cancer will lead to narrowing of the vagina. It results in severe pain at the time of sex.
4. Emotional Imbalance:
When any person knows that he or she has cancer, they can not handle the situation. All of a sudden everything shatters in their life. So, In this case, also a similar effect is seen. Many women found positive to this cervical cancer will experience a roller coaster effect. They will be in severe depression. So, even after the therapy they need some anti-depressants
Advanced Stage Effects:
In general, A person who has undergone the cancer treatment will experience blood thickening more frequently. The blood becomes stickier which may result in clot formation. It may be the result of the Bed rest after cervical cancer surgery. The patients who got the chemotherapic treatment also are at a risk of developing a clot.
Large tumors present in the advanced stages of cervical cancer may create pressure on the pelvic veins. It results in the decreased blood flow to the legs and lower parts of the body.
Some of the symptoms of the presence of blood clot includes the following
- Severe pain or swelling in any of your legs. You may find them so tender near the calf region.
- The affected area may experience moderate to severe pain.
- The skin may be warm to hot near the area of the clot.
- The skin below the knee, particularly at the back of the leg becomes red in color.
Vaginal Discharge, in general, is so irritating but a frequent problem that women face. But, in this cervical cancer condition, the vaginal discharge is accompanied by foul odor or unpleasant smell. It appears in advanced stages of cancer. There are several reasons for the occurrence of this foul smell.
The primary reason behind this foul odor is the breakdown of cervical tissue, leakage of the urinary bladder and bowel contents out of the vagina. Sometimes the bacterial and fungal infections of the vagina may also result in this odor.
Most of the cancers are painless until they reach the last stage. Because of this reason we can’t identify the cancers in its initial stages. But, once cancer spreads the pain will be very severe. If it reaches your nerve endings, bones or muscles, then the pain will be much more dangerous and becomes unbearable.
As mentioned earlier, cancer in its advanced stages press the veins. In the same way, in advanced stages of cervical cancer, the cancerous tissue may press against the ureters. It results in the blocking of the flow of urine out of the kidneys. So, it ‘s hard to excrete the urine, and the urine retention takes place in the kidneys itself. This condition is known as hydronephrosis where you can observe swollen and stretched kidneys.
Severe cases of hydronephrosis can cause the kidneys to become scarred, which may lead to loss of the kidneys’ functions entirely or partly. It is known as kidney failure. Symptoms of the renal failure includes
- Edema condition (swollen ankles, feet or hands) due to urine retention.
- Lack of breath or shortness of breath
- feeling sick all the time
- Blood may appear at the time of urination. This condition is called haematuria.
In the advanced stages of cervical cancer, it may result in spreading of the disease to vagina too which may cause severe bleeding. So, the bleeding may occur in the vagina or rectum., Sometimes, as mentioned earlier, your may excrete blood in your urine too. It is a painful condition where the patient mental stability of the patient decreases.
An abnormal connection is seen between two hollow spaces like blood vessels, epithelial tissues, etc. which is called as Fistula. So, in the case of cervical cancer, our body may develop the fistula. A channel may form between bladder and vagina in this case. It results in the vaginal discharge. In some rare cases of cervical cancer, the fistula may form between rectum and vagina.
. So, in the case of cervical cancer, our body may develop the fistula. A channel may form between bladder and vagina in this case. It results in the vaginal discharge. In some rare cases of cervical cancer, the fistula may form between rectum and vagina.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
How to prevent cervical cancer? We all know that prevention is better than cure. So, there are some preventive measures that we can implement to avoid cervical cancer. It is not easy to prevent any disease entirely, but we can stop it’s occurrence to 90%. Cervical cancer is the third most reason behind the death of women who have cancer. Also, this cervical cancer does not exhibit the symptoms in particular, so we can not recognize it in the early stages. Hence, to avoid this terrible situation, the only way is prevention Know the preventive measures and apply them to our life. So, these are the cervical cancer prevention steps.
1. HPV (human papillomavirus) or Cervical cancer vaccine:
Human papillomavirus is a virus which commonly affects the vagina, Anus of the human beings. The HPV virus transmits through direct sexual contact. In general, it will affect the people and leave without inducing any serious problems. But, in some cases it becomes severe. So, a cervical cancer vaccination against HPV came into existence in 2006 which can prevent cervical cancer. These are a direct link between the development of cervical cancer and Human Papillomavirus infection. So, if one can get this HPV vaccination earlier, then the chances of acquiring this cervical cancer will decrease substantially.
2. Practice Safe Sex:
As mentioned earlier, The HPV vaccine provides protection against the two HPV strains (HPV 16 and HPV 18). They are the primary reason for causing cervical cancer. But, There are many other strains which may cause this cancer. So, one should be cautious to avoid these HPV strains. Using a condom during sex can render protection from HPV infection. So, it is the best way to stay away from the HPV.
3. Cervical screening:
Every individual should make it a note that a regular body check up will help us to avoid most of the cancers and many other infections in their early stages. Because, if you take this cervical cancer, it will not show any unusual symptoms even if it is in its final stages. So, Regular cervical screening will help you in knowing the precancerous stages and your physician can take care of that before cancer develops at all or too far.
A Pap test for cervical cancer or Pap smear test is the most useful test to detect cervical cancer. So, a regular test can help you to treat if there are any abnormal cell changes on your cervix before they develop into cancer.
4. Have fewer sexual partners:
The risk of developing Cervical cancer is more in the women who have more sexual partners. So, better have only a few sexual partners. The risk for a Sexually Transmitted Diseases increases if your sex partner has more than one partner.
5. Do not smoke
Smoking is a bad habit, and one should accept it and should stay away from it if you want to stay away from these diseases. A cigar is more potent carPeople who smoke have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer than people who do not.
6. Delay the first sexual intercourse:
The younger the female is when she has her first sexual intercourse; the higher is the risk of developing cervical cancer. The longer she delays it, the lower is the risk.
7. Bring out the changes in lifestyle:
The disease cancer has no specific or exact reason. So, one should lead to some lifestyle changes and changes in food habits. It is better to avoid refined products, artificial food colorants, and deep fried foods.
So, Here we have rendered most of the important information that you should know about cervical cancer. Hence, it’s now your turn to be aware of Cervical cancer and undergo screening tests for every three years to prevent this dangerous Cervical Cancer.