Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Did you know that cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women? It’s also one of the easiest cancers to prevent. In this blog post, we will discuss ways that you can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. We will also talk about the symptoms of the disease and how it is treated.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens at the top of the vagina. It is usually slow-growing cancer, which means it can take years to develop.
Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2022, there will be 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer and 4,280 deaths from cervical cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a national organization whose mission is to conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other activities concerning the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.
Stages of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is staged based on how far cancer has spread.
- Stage 0: Precancerous cells can be found.
- Stage I: It is an early-stage cervical cancer. The cancer is confined to the cervix.
- Stage II: Cancer has spread to the upper two-thirds of the vagina or the tissue around the cervix.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lower third of the vagina, the pelvic wall, or the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: It is an advanced cervical cancer. Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, or bone. Advanced cancer is also known as invasive cancer because it has spread to other regions of the body. This type of cancer requires more treatment, which will typically involve radiation therapy or a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer starts when healthy cells in the cervix acquire DNA changes (mutations) and become abnormal. The DNA of a cell tells it what to do.
If the DNA changes, the cell will no longer function properly. The abnormal cells begin to grow out of control and form a tumor.
The vast majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, some of which can lead to cancer. It’s a typical virus that may be passed from person to person via sexual contact.
There are two types of HPV: low-risk and high-risk. Low-risk HPV does not usually cause cancer, but high-risk HPV can lead to precancerous changes in the cervix. These changes can develop into cancer over time if they are not found and treated early.
What are the risk factors for developing it?
The biggest risk factor for developing cervical cancer is HPV infection. Other risk factors include:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having sex at an early age
- Having a family history of cancer
- Long-term use of birth control pills
- Giving birth to many children
- Being infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections
- Weakened immune system
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer, and when should you see a doctor if you think you might have it?
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina. This may happen after sex, in between periods, or after menopause. A bloody, watery vaginal discharge that might be heavy and stinky. You may experience pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
Please visit your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above symptoms.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you may have cervical cancer, they will likely perform a pelvic exam. This is where they will look for any abnormal cervical cells. They may also take a Pap test or HPV test.
A Pap test (or pap smear) is where they will collect cells from your cervix and look at them under a microscope. An HPV test is where they will check for the presence of the HPV virus in your cervical cells.
If you test positive for cervical cancer, your doctor will likely perform more tests to determine the stage of your cancer. These tests may include a biopsy, MRI, PET scan, or CT scan.
If you’ve had your cervix removed and have no history of cervical cancer or precancerous lesions, you don’t need to be screened. Get tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis every year if you’re sexually active and have a higher risk of STDs.
What are the treatment options for cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer if detected early and properly treated. Late-stage cancers may also be treated with appropriate therapy and palliative care.
The most common treatment option for cervical cancer is surgery. This may involve a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or a cone biopsy (removal of the abnormal tissue from the cervix).
Other treatment options may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy. Your doctor will likely recommend a treatment plan based on the stage of your cancer.
Find support groups and counseling centers in your area to help you cope with cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is a serious disease, but it is also treatable. With early detection and treatment, the majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer will go on to live long and healthy lives.
Side effects of treatment
The most common side effects of surgery are pain and bleeding. Other side effects may include infection, fatigue, and emotional distress.
Radiation therapy can cause side effects such as fatigue, skin irritation, and urinary problems.
Chemotherapy can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.
Targeted therapy can cause side effects such as skin rash, diarrhea, and fatigue.
How can you prevent cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. The best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective, and it can be given to girls and boys as young as nine years old.
Cervical cancer screening is one of the most effective cancer prevention tools we have. In addition to getting vaccinated, you should also get regular Pap tests.
A Pap test is a simple procedure that can detect precancerous changes in the cervix. If these changes are found early, they can be treated before they turn into cancer.
Lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer include:
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Get vaccinated against HPV – the virus that causes cervical cancer
- Get regular Pap smears to check for abnormalities in your cervix
- Quit smoking – smokers are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer
- Limit your number of sexual partners – having multiple partners increases your risk of contracting HPV
- Use condoms every time you have sex – this will help protect you from HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases
What is the prognosis for women with cervical cancer, and how can they improve their chances for survival?
The prognosis for women with cervical cancer depends on the stage of cancer. The earlier the cancer is caught, the better the prognosis.
The five-year survival rate for women with stage I cervical cancer is 92 percent. The survival rate drops to 72 percent for women with stage II cervical cancer and 63 percent for women with stage III cervical cancer.
For women with stage IV cervical cancer, the survival rate is 17 percent.
Tips for caring for cervical cancer at home
Certain actions can reduce physical or mentally induced symptoms in cervical cancer treatment. What’s a simple way to have healthy food?
You may not feel hungry during treatment. But a diet full of protein is important for a stronger muscle. It is possible you can talk to nutrition gurus about calories or protein consumption. Some will recommend you eat larger amounts of food more often. Changing your lifestyle can help make you healthier during treatment.
We hope you found this blog post informative. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to speak with your doctor.