The cervix is the lower part of a woman’s uterus, which connects the uterus to her vagina. Cervical cancer occurs when cervix cells grow abnormally and invade other organs and tissues of the body. This cancer may affect the deeper tissues of the cervix and spread to other parts of the body, including the rectum, lungs, vagina, liver, and bladder. Fortunately, this cancer grows slowly and so earlier diagnosis and treatment will help prevent its progression.
What Are the Causes of Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancers are mostly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). There are different types of HPV viruses, but only certain types cause cervical cancer. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the two most common types that cause cancer of the cervix. Being infected with the HPV virus does not mean that you will develop cancer.
The HPV infection is spread through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. This infection is common and resolves on its own. Only in some women, the HPV infection persists and causes precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. However, these changes can be detected earlier by the regular screening test.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Besides HPV infection, other factors that can increase your risk for developing cervical cancer include:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- A family history of cervical cancer
- Early sexual activity
- Taking birth control pills
- A weakened immune system
- Having three full-term pregnancies
- Having many sexual partners
- Getting pregnant when you are less than 17 years of age
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Early stages of cervical cancer do not develop any symptoms. The symptoms will appear only when cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. Typical cervical cancer symptoms and signs include:
- Unusual bleeding between periods, after sex, or menopause
- Pain in the pelvis
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Frequent urination
- Pain during urination or intercourse
- Kidney failure due to a bowel or urinary tract obstruction
Cervical Cancer Treatment
Early diagnosis will help treat cervical cancer. Treatments for cervical cancer include:
Early-stage cervical cancer is usually treated with any of these surgeries depending on the size and progression of your cancer and whether you would like to become pregnant.
- Surgery to cut away the cancer
- Hysterectomy – surgery to remove the uterus and cervix
- Trachelectomy - surgery to remove the cervix
It is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to destroy cancer cells. The drug can be taken in pill form or given through the vein.
3. Targeted Therapy
This drug treatment focuses on specific weaknesses in the cancer cells. The treatment blocks these weaknesses and causes cancer cells to die.
4. Radiation Therapy
It uses high-powered energy beams such as protons or x-rays to kill cancer cells.
Cervical Cancer Prevention
Follow these tips to prevent cervical cancer:
- Receive a vaccination to prevent HPV infection
- Don’t smoke
- Have regular Pap or HPV test
- Practice safe sex