Globally, cervical cancer is second most common and the fifth deadliest cancer in women. Cervical cancer can be successfully treated when it is detected early. It is still a life-threatening disease which occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. In 2019, it was estimated that 584,000 cases of cervical cancer occurred, and about half of those cases result to deaths. Cervical cancer is usually discovered at a very early stage through a Pap test.
CAUSES OF CERVICAL CANCER
Cervical cancer is mostly caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are many types of HPV. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can survive in human body undetected for many years. This is why it is important to have regular Pap tests. Cervical cancer starts from cells, causing pre-cancerous changes (pre-cancer). Only some of the women with pre-cancer of the cervix will develop cancer. The change from cervical pre-cancer to cervical cancer usually takes several years. However, it can happen in less than a year. For most women, pre-cancerous cells will disappear without any treatment. Still in some women, pre-cancer turns into true (invasive) cancer. Treating all pre-cancers can prevent almost all true cancers. When cervical cancer is detected early, it can be completely cured, with outcome of life-long survival and good quality life.
PEOPLE MOST VULNERABLE TO CERVICAL CANCER ATTACK
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can be contacted by having sex with infected person. Women with many sex partners (or who have sex with men who have many other partners) are at greater risk. However, all women are at the risk of cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women who are above 30 years of age. Infection with some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the greatest risk factor for cervical cancer. Smoking and other viral infections contribute. Women who have many children and use birth control pills for several years are at risk also. The trust of this article is that it will create adequate public awareness that will promote early detection and clinical management of cervical cancer.
LOCATION AND TYPES OF CERVICAL CANCERS
Cervical cancer is the cancer that starts in the transformation zone of lower end of the womb. It forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms. Most cervical cancers begin in the cells lining the cervix. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. First, the normal cells of the cervix gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that eventually turn into full cancer. Cervical cancers and cervical pre-cancers are classified by how they look under a microscope. There are two main types of cervical cancers: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. More than 80% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma. Most of the other cervical cancers are adenocarcinoma. Cervical adenocarcinoma seems to be the most common in the past 25 years.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCERS
The early stages of cervical cancer may be completely asymptomatic. However, the common symptoms are bleeding and moderate pain when something comes in contact with the cervix. This is noticed during normal sexual intercourse. There is abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause. Other signs and symptoms that may be observed are hard-to-stop vaginal discharge. The discharge may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody or foul-smelling. Periods that become heavier and last longer than usual are common.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include metastases (cancer spread) to the liver, bladder, intestine, lungs or abdomen. Loss of appetite and weight are common occurrences. Reported are fatigue, unexplained change in menstrual cycle, bone fractures; and pain in the pelvic, back or legs. Other signs and symptoms are single swollen leg, heavy bleeding from the vagina and leakage of urine or feces from the vagina.
PREVENTABLE EXPOSURES TO CERVICAL CANCER
There are certain preventable predisposing factors in favour of cervical cancer attacks. Sex at early age and multiple high-risk sex partners are avoidable. It is very necessary to avoid smoking which increases chances of getting cervical cancer. Take birth control pills under expert medical supervision.
PARTNER IN CERVICAL CANCER MANAGEMENT
Do not ignore any of the symptoms and signs above. Seek prompt medical attention and have regular pap tests and pelvic examinations. These will properly guide treatment of any problem before it turns into cervical cancer. Follow up on abnormal Pap smear results with appropriate health care professionals for timely medical intervention. If infected with cervical cancer, reduce the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Stay properly informed. Share with others with common experiences and problems. This helps in the management of the psychological burden of cervical cancer. Consult your health care providers for the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine.