Understanding Cervical Cancer

Published by Health Professional

on Tuesday, February 28th 2023

CancerWomen's Health

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, that opens into the vagina. It is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and it can be deadly if not detected and treated early enough. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cervical cancer, as well as prevention and screening methods to help you stay informed and protected.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when the cervix cells grow abnormally and become cancerous. The leading cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can cause changes in the cervical cells, possibly leading to cancer over time. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, having a weak immune system, and having a family history of cervical cancer.

What are the Causes of Cervical Cancer?

As mentioned earlier, the leading cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact. There are many different strains of HPV, but some are more likely to cause cancer than others. In fact, HPV is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, having a weak immune system, and having a family history of cervical cancer.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Early Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are usually no symptoms. However, as cancer grows and spreads, it may cause some symptoms, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex, between periods, or after menopause. Women may also experience vaginal discharge that is watery, bloody, and foul-smelling, as well as pelvic pain or pain during sex.

Advanced Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

In the later stages of cervical cancer, the symptoms may become more severe, including weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, leg swelling, and lower back pain. If cancer has spread to other body parts, such as the bladder, rectum, or lungs, it may cause additional symptoms, such as blood in the urine or stool or shortness of breath].

Treatments for Cervical Cancer

Surgery

Surgery is often the first-line treatment for early-stage cervical cancer. The type of surgery used depends on the stage of cancer and may involve removing the cervix, uterus, surrounding tissues, and nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, performing a less invasive procedure, such as a cone biopsy, may be possible to remove only a portion of the cervix.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. There are two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), which delivers radiation from a machine outside the body, and brachytherapy, which involves placing radioactive material inside the cervix.

Chemotherapy 

This is a well-established treatment option for cancer patients, but it is essential to be aware of other treatments that may be available. Immunotherapy, for example, is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer. It works by targeting specific proteins involved in the immune system to enhance the immune response, and it typically has different, sometimes less severe, side effects than chemotherapy.

In addition to treatment options, it is also essential to focus on prevention and screening for cancer, especially in the case of cervical cancer. Prevention can be achieved through the HPV vaccination, which protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Screening is also crucial, and Pap tests are a standard screening tool for cervical cancer.

Follow-up care is also an essential aspect of cancer treatment and management. Patients should work with their healthcare team to determine the appropriate follow-up schedule for their specific situation. This may include regular check-ups, monitoring for any signs of recurrence, and addressing any ongoing side effects of treatment.

In conclusion, 

while chemotherapy is a commonly used cancer treatment, other options exist, such as immunotherapy. Additionally, it is crucial to focus on prevention and screening for cervical cancer, including the HPV vaccination and Pap tests. Finally, follow-up care is crucial for managing cancer and addressing any ongoing side effects of treatment. For further information, please refer to our FAQs below.

FAQs:

What is the difference between chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

  1. A: Chemotherapy is a treatment that targets rapidly dividing cancer cells, while immunotherapy helps the immune system fight cancer by enhancing the immune response.

How can cervical cancer be prevented?

  1. A: Cervical cancer can be prevented through the HPV vaccination, which protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer 

What is a Pap test?

  1. A: A Pap test is a screening tool for cervical cancer that involves collecting cells from the cervix to be examined under a microscope.

Why is follow-up care necessary for cancer patients?

  1. A: Follow-up care is vital for monitoring any signs of recurrence and addressing ongoing side effects of treatment