Cervical cancer is cancer which arises in the cervix. Just like any other any other cancer, cervical cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells in a part of the body and can spread to other parts of the body. When the cancer is invasive, it can spread to other tissues and organs like the liver, lungs, vagina, rectum and bladder. A large number of people in underinformed regions have died from cervical cancer and the general public is not aware, even when they are aware of the disease, it is not treated as important due to various environmental factors. The statistics for cervical cancer are alarming. In a country like South Africa, a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 31. A major cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus and up to 80 percent of sexually active women will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime, with the risk increasing with age. Each year in South Africa, approximately 6700 women develop cervical cancer while an estimated 3700 die from it. For those who ask if you can die from cervical cancer, yes, you can.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
The Human papillomavirus infection (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer-causing more than 90% of cases. The plot twist is that most people who have had HPV infection, do not develop cervical cancer, but those who have cervical cancer, its cause was an HPV infection. There are other risk factors include smoking, a weak immune system, birth control pills, starting sex at a young age, and having many sexual partners. These other risk factors aren’t always tagged as medically important because cervical cancer most times develops from precancerous changes over 10 to 20 years. Meaning, having cervical cancer at 30 is as a result of years of precancerous changes. Diagnosis of cervical cancer is typically by cervical screening followed by a biopsy. Medical imaging is then done to determine whether or not cancer has spread. This stage of diagnosis is very important because it will allow you and your doctors to know the stage of cervical cancer that they are dealing with and possible treatments.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms are indications of a condition or conditions. They can also be regarded as warning signs. Unbeknownst to many, there are warning signs of cervical cancer. Unfortunately, in the early staged of cervical cancer, there are no visible symptoms. However, in later stages, these symptoms can appear. Symptoms of cervical cancer include
Pelvic pain: a sign of cervical cancer is the pelvic pain. The pelvis is the lower part of the trunk of the human body between the abdomen and the thighs. Pain in this part of the body can be very uncomfortable and excruciating because most movements involve the pelvic bone.
Painful intercourse: This is a symptom that can affect your sexual life a whole lot. Painful intercourse is a menace and it is ideal to see your doctor.
Abnormal, heavy, irregular menstruation or spotting: Perfectly normal menstruation already comes with its monthly share of stress, breakouts and pain. Imagine an abnormal one. heavy, irregular menstruation and spotting is one of the symptoms of cervical cancer and can take a toll on your life.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Just like every other symptom, abnormal vaginal bleeding is discomforting and nerve-racking. Do not take it as a normal hormonal imbalance, see a doctor.
Increased urinary frequency: An increased urinary frequency simply means that you urinate more times than what is normal to you. It is a sign of cervical cancer.
Pain during urination: Pain during urination is associated with many conditions, therefore it could just be anything. Knowing also that is a symptom of cervical cancer will narrow your possible conditions down.
Abnormal vaginal discharge: Every woman experiences vaginal discharge in different forms, however, some are normal and the others abnormal. Experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge may also indicate the presence of cervical cancer.
Along with these symptoms, it is also common to experience fatigue, nausea and weight loss.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer
The stage of cervical cancer is the most important determinant of treatment. Although, other factors can affect the choice of treatment. These factors include age, the location of cancer in the cervix, health, childbearing desires and type of cancer. In a realistic school of thought, the available resources and country will also play a role in determining your choice of treatment.
- Laser surgery
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP/LEETZ)
- Cold knife conization
- Simple hysterectomy (as the first treatment or if the cancer returns after other treatments
- Cone biopsy: this is the preferred procedure for women who still wish to have children after treatment.
For women who no longer wish to bear children after the treatment, these are ideal.
- A total hysterectomy may be an option if the cancer shows no lymph vascular invasion.
- If the cancer has grown into blood or lymph vessels, there might be a need for radical hysterectomy along with the removal of the pelvic lymph nodes.
There are up to 6 stages of cervical cancer, depending of the type of cervical cancer it is, with each stage having the best possible treatment and the treatments range from surgeries to chemotherapy and more.