Cancer is a condition in which the body’s cells grow out of control. Even if cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is always named after the part of the body where it begins. Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix connects the vaginal canal (birth canal) to the uterus. When a woman is pregnant, the uterus (or womb) is where the baby develops.
Cervical cancer is a disease that affects all women. It is most common in women over the age of 30. Cervical cancer is caused by a long-term infection with particular forms of human papillomavirus (HPV). The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is spread from one person to another during sexual activity. HPV will infect at least half of sexually active adults at some point in their lives, but only a small percentage of women will develop cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer used to be a top cause of death among women in the United States. Since screening tests become generally available, this has changed. Cervical screening has lead to early detection of any cancerous changes which is highly treatable and is accompanied with long survival rate and good quality of life.
What Are The Factors That Increase The Risk of Cervical Cancer?
Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be spread from one person to another during sexual intercourse, is responsible for nearly all cervical malignancies. HPV comes in a variety of forms. Some types of HPV can induce alterations to a woman’s cervix, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer, while others can produce genital or skin warts.
HPV is so widespread that almost everyone contracts it at some point in their lives. You can’t determine whether you have HPV because it normally doesn’t cause any symptoms. HPV will go away on its own for most women; but, if it does not, there is a potential that it will develop cervical cancer over time.
Other associated factors of cervical cancer are:
- Being diagnosed with HIV or any other disease that cause low immunity
- On birth control pills for a long period of time (more than five years)
- Given birth for more than three times
- Having multiple sexual partners
How Do I Know If I Have Cervical Cancer?
Many women with cervical cancer are unaware that they have it until it has progressed to the point where symptoms appear, which is usually the late stages. When symptoms do occur, they’re frequently misdiagnosed as menstruation or urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Advanced cervical cancer can cause unusual bleeding or discharge from the vaginal area, such as bleeding after sex. Consult your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s possible that they’re caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to visit your doctor.
Some of the other symptoms typical of cervical cancer are:
- pelvic pain
- increase frequency in urination
- painful urination
Is There Anything I Can Do To Reduce My Chances of Developing Cervical Cancer?
Getting vaccinated early and having frequent screening tests are the most important things you can do to help avoid cervical cancer. Starting at the age of 21, you can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by getting screened on a regular basis.
The HPV vaccine protects against the HPV types that are most commonly associated with cervical, vaginal, and vulvar malignancies. It is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12, however it can be given as early as age 9. It is also suggested for everyone under the age of 26 who has not yet been vaccinated.
Vaccination against HPV is not recommended for anyone above the age of 26. Some adults aged 27 to 45 who have not yet received the HPV vaccine may opt to do so after discussing with their doctor about their risk of new HPV infections and the potential advantages of vaccination. HPV vaccine is less effective in this age group since they probably have already been exposed to the virus.
If immunisation is initiated before the age of 15, it is suggested that two doses be given 6 to 12 months apart. The vaccination is given in a three-shot series to those who begin the vaccine injection after 15 years old.
Vaccination against HPV prevents new infections, but it does not treat existing infections or illnesses. This is why the HPV vaccine is most effective when administered prior to any HPV exposure. Even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you should get checked for cervical cancer on a regular basis.
Cervical cancer can be prevented or detected early with the use of these two screening tests:
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) checks for precancerous lesions, which are cell abnormalities on the cervix that might progress to cervical cancer if left untreated.
- The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus that might cause these cell alterations.
Both of these tests can be performed in a doctor’s office or a clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will stretch your vaginal opening with a speculum, which is a plastic or metal device. This allows the doctor to examine the vagina and cervix, as well as collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and surrounding area. The cells are taken to a lab for analysis.
At the age of 21, you should have your first Pap test. You can wait three years for your next test if your results are normal.
You can either choose between these three options once you are 30 years old or older:
- Continue with getting a Pap smear only. You can wait three years for your next test if your results are normal.
- Get an HPV test only. You can wait five years for your next test if your results are normal.
- Get an HPV and Pap test at the same time. You can wait five years if your test results are normal to consider doing another screening.
These precautions may also help you reduce your chances of developing cervical cancer:
- Avoid smoking
- Remember to use condoms during sexual encounters
- Minimize your number of sexual partners
What Happens If I Got Diagnosed With Cervical Cancer?
Your doctor will tell you if you require treatment in cases where your test results reveal abnormal cells that could turn into cancer. Cervical cancer is prevented in the majority of cases with treatment.
Your doctor might refer you to a gynaecologic oncologist – a doctor who specialised in treating cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. The doctor will help you to figure out the treatment plan that works for you.
The extent of the disease can be classified into several stages. It depends on the size of the cancer and how far it has spread. This information is used by doctors to plan treatment and to monitor progress.
Cervical cancer can be treated in a variety of ways. It is dependent on the type of cervical cancer and the extent to which it has spread. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are all options for treatment.
It can be difficult at first to choose which treatment is best for you. Consult your cancer specialist about the management options available for your specific cancer type and stage. Each treatment’s risks and advantages, as well as any adverse effects, can be discussed with your doctor.
The five-year survival rate for cervical cancer which is discovered early while it is still confined to the cervix, is 92 percent.
The five-year survival rate declines to 56 percent once the cancer has progressed to the pelvic area. Survival is only 17 percent if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
The importance of routine testing in improving the prognosis of women with cervical cancer cannot be overstated. This malignancy is very curable if discovered early.
If you notice any changes to your genital health that is out of the norm for you, please visit DTAP Clinics for a comprehensive medical check-up, Pap smear and for HPV Vaccine.