Cervical cancer tends to be one of the most common cancers that affect women. It is a quite dangerous condition since it can develop asymptomatically for years but damage the women’s reproductive system at the same time. Unfortunately, many women don’t pay much attention to their reproductive health and discover that they have cancer in the late stages. In this article, we will tell you everything you should know about cervical cancer
Cancer is a condition that occurs when the cells start to change and grow abnormally. The outer lining of the cervix is prone to cell change and cancer starts exactly there. In most cases, cervical cancer affects women after their 40s but young women with certain accompanying illnesses can also develop it.
There are a few factors that can contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is considered the most common of them because it starts the cell changes. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that has a lot of types but the 16th and 18th types are the most dangerous.
The other causes of cervical cancer are the presence of various STIs, poor immunity, and cervical issues. These factors contribute to cell changes and make the cervix more vulnerable to different conditions.
As mentioned above, cervical cancer can develop asymptomatically for years. However, some women with cervical cancer can experience mild to severe symptoms. The most common of them include:
Pain during urination
Pain during sex
External genital swelling
Spotting (light bleeding between periods)
You should also understand that the symptoms may vary depending on the severity of your condition and other factors. If you have noticed at least some of the symptoms listed above, it is essential to visit your gynecologist for examination.
Cervical cancer can be diagnosed by the gynecologist during the examination. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and may recommend additional tests for a more thorough diagnosis. The most common tests for cervical cancer diagnosis are Pap test, colposcopy, and a cervical biopsy.
Pap test, also called Pap smear, is performed to study cervical cells for potentially precancerous and cancerous processes. Colposcopy is a procedure during which the gynecologist can thoroughly study your vulva, vagina, and cervix with the help of a colposcope. A cervical biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of cervical tissue to check them for abnormal or cancerous changes.
If you were diagnosed with cervical cancer, there are a few treatment options. However, you should decide if you want to maintain your fertility or not before treatment. If you are going to have children in the future and cancerous changes didn’t affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, your treatment will be aimed at saving your fertility.
The most common treatment options for cervical cancer include:
Chemotherapy is a procedure during which a woman with cancer receives anti-cancer drugs in the form of injections or pills. Chemotherapy has the ability to shrink tumors and can also be recommended for women who are treated with radiation therapy. The common side effects of chemotherapy may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and mouth ulcers.
Radiation therapy is a procedure that uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. The doctor points high doses of radiation to cancer cells in the cervix while preserving healthy tissues. Due to the fact that X-rays are focused only on tumors, it helps reduce the risk of common gastrointestinal and sex-related side effects.
There are several types of surgery like cryosurgery, laser ablation, and conization that can be used for treating cervical cancer. However, if cancer affected a significant area, radical hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus, cervix, and the surrounding tissues) can be the best option.
Targeted therapy drugs work by attaching to proteins or receptors in cancer cells. It either kills cells or helps other treatments (like chemotherapy) work better. Among the drugs used in targeted therapy are so-called angiogenesis inhibitors, which are designed to prevent the development of cancer cells in the blood vessels that feed the tumors.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight the disease. It implements the use of drugs that developed to stimulate the immune system to fight specific cancer cells. Immunotherapy is designed to stimulate the immune system to target certain cancer cells.