Cervical cancer, as the name suggests, is a cancer type that develops within the cervix cells. The cells connect the uterus with the vaginal tube. Cervical cancers are largely due to different HPV strains. It is an infection transmitted sexually. Our immune system is usually strong enough to stop the HPV virus. However, the virus manages to live for many years for some people. In these people the cervical cells become cancer cells. Screenings tests as well as vaccination against HVP can prevent cervical cancer.
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Several types of cervical cancer have been identified. Some common types are:
Squamous Cell Cancer: The bottom of the cervix is bordered by a layer of flat, thin cells. This is the region where the squamous cells develop. Almost 90 percent of cervical tumors are squamous cells.
Adenocarcinoma: It is a type of cancer found in the cervix’s glandular cells. These cells border the cervix’s upper part. They are also called cervix adenocarcinomas. They account for the second most prevalent type of cancer.
Glassy Cell Cancer: Adenosquamous cancer comprises glassy cell cancers, which is a subtype.
Adenosquamous Carcinomas: This carcinoma develops when both cell types are responsible for developing cervical cancer. The cancers forming under these groups are of varied definitions. As such, it becomes difficult to identify their prevalence. Apart from adenocarcinoma and squamous cells, there are additional cancers that occur within the cervix. Some of these are sarcoma, lymphoma, and melanoma.
Cervical cancer signs and symptoms are not prominent until cancer has spread or progressed. Yet, it is possible to detect the signs during the early stages. Some of these signs can be:
Vaginal Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding can be mistaken as menstrual bleeding as a result of cervical cancer. The person may notice a heavier or longer menstrual cycle. Symptoms also include bleeding or spotting between periods. One should consult a doctor in case of any unusual bleeding. These include post-menopause bleeding and bleeding after several years or months.
Pelvic Pain: A woman can face pelvic pain for several reasons. Few also experience pain in their lower back. These can be sharp pressure or pain in their lower abdomen, beneath their belly button, or anywhere.
Vaginal Discharge: A healthy and typical vaginal discharge is milky, slightly yellowish, or clear. You should be wary of any change in odor, consistency, or color of the vaginal discharge. Small blood spots in the discharge can be a sign of a cervical tumor. It will be of a reddish color. Symptoms also include increased discharge amount after completing the menstrual cycle.
Experiencing Intercourse Pain: Some might suffer from bleeding or discomfort during and after intercourse.
The main causes of cervical cancer are mutations or changes within the healthy cell DNA within the cervix. Our cell DNA comprises a set of instructions. Healthy cells grow, replicate as per predetermined instructions and die as per their lifecycle. When mutations occur, the cells start proliferating and replicating in an uncontrollable manner. These cells do not die. They become aberrant cells and start accumulating. After some time, they become a tumor or bulk. These tumor cells then spread across the adjacent tissues. They also metastasize to different body parts.
Additional Risk Factors
Smoking: Women with regular smoking habits are more likely to develop cervical cancer. The tobacco by-products are found in the cervical mucus, increasing the risk.
Human Papillomavirus: HPV has been identified as the most widespread risk for developing cervical cancer. It is an infection with more than 150 different virus families. Papillomas can be found in the form of warts, which are basically the growth of cancer cells.
Weak Immunity: Our immune system helps destroy the tumor cells. They also help in halting the spread and growth of these cells. Those with weak immunity are more prone to cervical cancer. HIV-positive women are at a higher risk of developing this cancer. A cervical pre-tumor might progress to become invasive carcinoma quicker.
Malnourishment: Women with a diet deficient in vegetables and fruits are more prone to cervical cancer.
Multiple Pregnancies: Women with more than three full-term pregnancies are more prone to cervical cancer. This is due to the increased risk of contracting HPV infection from sexual activities.
Chlamydia Infection: Research indicates that women with chlamydia infections or symptoms in their cervical mucus or blood have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Chlamydia is a bacterium that might support the growth of HPV. This helps its survival in their cervix, increasing cervical cancer risk.
Sexual History: Several factors associated with sexual history might aid the risk of cervical cancer. The most common factor is the increased risk of exposure to HPV during sexual activities.
Identifying the stage or phase of cervical cancer is essential for determining the right treatment approach. The classification is based on several factors. These can be the extent of its spread, size, and shape. It can also be the personal history of the patient and her health factors. There are four stages of cervical cancer.
Stage 0: This is a pre-cancerous phase. The abnormal cells are discovered in this stage. They are present in the innermost lining of the cervix. However, they are not cancerous or invasive. These cells are precancerous. This means they are ready to become cancerous and metastasize to the surrounding normal tissues. It is easy to treat these precancerous cells. Treatment can prevent the cells from spreading as well as transforming into cancer.
Stage I: Stage I can be further subdivided into stages IA and IB. The cancer is confined to the cervix area in this stage.
Stage II: Here the cancer cells have traveled to the nearby tissues of the uterus as well as vaginal passage. The malignancy is yet to reach the wall of the pelvic area. The tissue lining the hips will be affected in the next stage.
Stage III: In this stage, cancer can be found across the entire vaginal wall. It has also reached the hip area, including the hip tissues and pelvic wall. In this stage, the malignancy starts affecting renal function.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of cancer. The tumor cells have spread to nearby locations. They can be found in the urethra or vulva, rectum, and bladder. They can also spread to other body parts. These include lungs, liver, kidneys, digestive system, or the belly.
A successful treatment strategy comprises a precise and comprehensive cancer diagnosis. This is the first step towards designing any cancer treatment plan. At Media, you will have an integrated team comprised of cancer experts and technology experts. They will employ advanced innovation techniques and tests. This helps in the quick and accurate identification of a diagnosis.
Pap Smear: Several screening procedures are used for diagnosing cervical cancer. Pap Smear is one of the most preferred screening tests. It helps identify the cancer as well as precancerous cells.
Pelvic Examination: Your doctor will test the cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, uterus, rectum, and ovaries physically. These will be examined for bumps or nodules. These bumps are investigated further via imaging equipment.
Biopsy: Biopsy can be cone biopsy (LEEP) or sentinel biopsy of the lymph node. These two biopsy types are for diagnosing cervical cancer.
Colonoscopy: A colposcope is a special type of microscope. It is used for examining the cervix. It provides a comprehensive view of all cervical parts. This helps in spotting abnormal tissues. The doctor will then biopsy the aberrant tissues.
The care and treatment for cervical cancers involve an array of medical professionals. These include social workers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists, and counselors. Information is obtained from all patient sources such as scans, tests, and patient history. Based on this, your cancer team will prepare a tailored and comprehensive treatment plan.
Surgery: One of the most preferred treatment methods is surgery. It is applicable for the majority of patients with cervical cancer. Surgery can be of different types based on cancer and patient requirement.
Radiation Therapy: The radiation oncologists at Media employ advanced cutting-edge technology for cervical cancer treatment. High radiation doses are administered to the cervical cancer cells. Healthy tissues are avoided at all costs. Radiation therapy lessens the chances of side effects during treatment. Cancer treatment can have side effects on sexual function or gastrointestinal activities. The radiation is directed to the tumor.
Chemotherapy: This cancer treatment uses medications for preventing or killing malignant cells. The treatment helps destroy or limit the spread. Chemotherapy is recommended to many patients with cervical cancer. It can also be used as an additional treatment plan with surgery or radiation therapy.
Targeted Therapy: The focus of targeted therapy is locating and killing the individual tumor cells. The therapy uses specific medications. These medications connect with the receptors or proteins of the cancer cells. This step either kills the cancer cells or improves the effectiveness of other therapies. A common medication in targeted therapy is angiogenesis inhibitors. The aberrant cells create blood vessels for feeding the tumor. These inhibitors block these tumor cells.
Immunotherapy: This cancer treatment improves the immunity of our bodies. Specific compounds in our body or the lab are used for enhancing our immune system. These assist in attacking or detecting cancer cells.
Other treatment methods include radical trachelectomy, pelvic exenteration, and hysterectomy. These procedures are suggested based on the doctor’s recommendations.