What is cancer:
Cancer is an abnormal or uncontrolled growth of cells (smallest unit of body), which can spread to other part of body (called metastatic condition). Cancer cells are immortal in nature.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that prevail or appear in the cells of cervix (lower narrow portion of the uterus that connects to vagina in female reproductive system), due to uncontrolled or abnormal growth.
When abnormal cervix cell started continue dividing and do not die (as per set life spam), as a result the cells accumulate and forms a mass also known as tumor this condition called as cervical cancer.
Image: from Wikimedia Commons: Illu cervix
Stages of Cervical cancer:
Mainly differentiate in 4 stages as per area covered by abnormal growth of cells-
Stage- I: Cancerous area can be 3 mm to 4 cm and spread in to deeper tissue from cervix lining within the uterus.
Stage-II: Cancerous area can be larger than 4 cm and cancer spread up to the parametrical area (nearby areas of cervix), such as vagina but within the pelvic area.
Stage- III: Tumor can be any size and spread up to the pelvic wall or lower part of vagina can lead hydronephrosis (swelling of the kidney), but lymph nodes are not involved up to this stage.
Stage- IV: Can be of any size and spread up to the other parts of the body such as bladder, rectum and lymph nodes.
Causes of cervical cancer:
- A sexually transmitted virus, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which having more than 100 type of HPV
out of which 13 types HPV can lead cervical cancer
- 70 % of cervical cancer can be caused by two type of HPV virus HPV16 and HPV18
- Sexually transmitted disease: HIV, Syphilis and Gonorrhea can also increase the chance of cervical
- Smoking increase the risk of cervical cancer
- Long term oral contraceptives and pills can raise the risk of cervical cancer
- Multiple pregnancies/abortion increase the risk of cervical cancer
- Sexual activity within the age of 16 produces high risk of developing cervical cancer
- Cervical cancer can pass via mother to her baby
Symptoms of cervical cancer:
In earlier stages cervical cancer do not show noticeable symptoms, However as per stages it can be as below-
1) Common stage symptoms:
- Pelvic pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge
- Kidney failure due to UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
- Increased urinary frequency
2) Advanced stages symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Back pain
- Weight loss
- Bone fracture
- Fatigue and swollen legs
How cervical cancer can be detected?
Physician can recognize the cancerous cells by tests at early stage, which would be helpful to prevent or proper treatment of cervical cancer-
Pap smear Test: Pap smear test or Pap test is a microscopic screening procedure to recognize the abnormal changes of precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix.
Notes: The women ages 21 to 65 years should get Pap test every three years for prevention, If the women have HIV positive, sexually active with multiple partners, multiple pregnancies etc.
HPV Test: HPV test can recognize the HPV virus but not the abnormal cell changes in cervix. In better way women can go for HPV test with Pap test together.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer:
Cervical cancer can be treated according to stages of cancer (spread in how much area)-
1) Surgery: It is the operational procedure for early stage cervical cancer.
- Simple Hysterectomy: Removal of cervix and uterus with cancerous cells.
- Radical Hysterectomy: This surgical procedure is best for younger patient in which removal the cervix
but the uterus would be left. The patient can conceive pregnancy further in future after this procedure.
2) Cone Biopsy: Cone shaped areas of abnormal cells are removed in very early stage under general anaesthesia.
3) Chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, Anti-cancer medications are used to kill or destroyed the growth of cancerous cells.
4) Radiation Therapy: High energy x-ray or beam radiation to kill cancer cells (stop multiplication of abnormal cells).
5) HPV vaccination: To prevent infection spread through HPV virus, HPV vaccination is most effective if given in older age or teenager.
Some positive things about cervical cancer, which will help in prevention are-
- This cancer has a known cause as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and effective vaccines are available
- Should take proper precautions before sex as it has known mode of transmission i.e. sexually
- To get test for Pap smear test and HPV test at time to know any risk of cervical cancer
Reference: ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer
Burden of Cervical cancer:
Percent of new cases by age group due to Cervical cancer:
Note: Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed among women aged 35 to 44.
Percent of death cases by age group due to Cervical cancer:
Note: The percent of cervical cancer deaths is highest among women aged 55 to 64.
I hope this article will be helpful to increase your understanding about Cervical cancer. Please ask your doubts in comment box anytime.
Stats: from article “Cancer Stat Facts: Cervical Cancer” published in National Cancer Institute