Cervical cancer, one of the third most widespread malignancies in women worldwide, develops in women’s cervix. It is a sexually transmitted virus, and when the human body is exposed to it in a small percentage, the immune system prevents it from doing any harm.
Almost all cervical cancer develops due to an infection caused by a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV). If the virus survives in the body for an extended duration, it begins contributing to the process of growing cancer cells in the cervix.
When the cells in the cervix start to alter into precancerous cells, the body is at risk of developing cervical cancer. These cells can be found in the lining of the cervix.
Once the cells start altering the deeper tissues of the cervix, the risk of cancerous cells spreading to the other parts of the body also increases, like the urinary bladder, vagina, rectum, liver, etc.
Other than the HPV, some other risk factors which can contribute to cervical cancer causes are:
- Being sexually active from a young age
- Having multiple sexual partners at once
- Taking birth control pills for a prolonged duration
- Smoking cigarettes at a very young age
- Catching sexually transmitted diseases
Cervix, located inside the pelvic cavity, is a small muscular canal in the female body which connects the uterus with the vagina. It is also referred to as the neck of the womb because it plays an important role during childbirth and in allowing fluids to pass between the uterus and vagina.
During the menstruation cycle, the blood reaches the vagina through the cervix before exiting your body. It also protects the uterus by preventing objects from slipping into it, like tampons and vaginal cups.
There are two major types of cervical cancers: squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas. Around 90% of cervical cancer cases are squamous cell carcinomas.
Cervical cancer treatment for both types is similar.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the outermost part of the cervix. Squamous cells cover the outer part of the cervix called the ectocervix, which are tiny white skin-like cells. If caught early, squamous cell carcinoma can be treated.
However, during the later stages, there is a much more accelerated growth of the cancer cells.
Adenocarcinoma is less common than squamous cell carcinomas. Apart from the outer lining, the cervix also has glandular cells in the inside passage, which runs from the uterus to the vagina.
Therefore, adenocarcinoma is cervical cancer which starts in the internal gland cells.
Mixed carcinoma has cancerous cells in the cervix’s internal passage and outer lining
Many women do not experience any symptoms of cervical cancer until it has grown far too much. Some signs observed during its spread are painful sexual intercourse, abnormal vaginal discharge, and unusual vaginal bleeding.
Other symptoms after its spread include:
- Kidney failure
- Swollen legs and feet
- Painful urination
- Pelvic pain
- Lower abdomen pain
- Bone pain
- Sudden weight loss
- Watery and smelly vaginal discharge
- Blood in urine
- Bleeding from the rectum while pooping
Screening tests can help detect cervical cancer in both early and late stages. There are numerous screening tests available. We will discuss which test would work the best for you and why.
It is a very common screening test and is recommended for all women to include this in their regular health check-ups.
Using a tool, the health practitioner will scrape some cells from your cervix during a pap test. These cells will then be examined under a microscope for abnormalities.
Cervical cancer can be easily detected through a pap test.
HPV DNA Test
In this test, the cells are collected from the cervix, similar to a pap test. The cells are then tested for HPV infection to detect cervical cancer.
A cone biopsy involves taking a cell and tissue sample from the cervix for cervical cancer testing. However, the cells are obtained from deeper layers of the cervix in cone biopsy, due to which it is performed under general anesthesia.
The cervical cancer treatment plan depends on factors like age, cancer stage, medical history, other health complications, etc. Early-stage cancer can be treated through surgery. Cancer-affected regions of the cervix are cut away, leaving the other parts intact.
Some surgical methods which are used to treat the early stages of cervical cancer are:
- Cone biopsy (affected regions of the cervix are cut)
- Trachelectomy (the entire cervix and nearby affected areas are removed)
- Hysterectomy (cervix, uterus and certain parts of the vagina are removed)
However, if cancer has been detected in later stages and is not possible to be treated surgically, some of the treatment options are:
Chemotherapy involves inserting certain chemical drugs into the body through the vein to kill the cancer cells. Certain chemo drugs are available, which can be consumed in pill form.
Immunotherapy is a biological therapy that uses substances from living organisms to treat cancer. The substances are made and processed in a laboratory to destroy the cancer cells.
It not only kills the cancer cells but also strengthens the immune system to fight off cancer.
Due to changing lifestyles, cervical cancer is now becoming increasingly common in women all over the world. Hence, it is recommended for young women to do regular health check-ups to prevent cervical cancer.
Some of the preventive measures you can follow are:
- Go for regular health check-ups and pap tests
- Get HPV cervical cancer vaccine
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse
- Limit having multiple sexual partners at the same time
- Avoid sexual intercourse with individuals who have multiple sexual partners
- Do not indulge in excessive smoking and drinking
- Avoid being sexually active at an early age
The fear associated with cancer is natural as it is often unpredictable and vicious. However, now medical science has developed tremendously. Technology has enabled cancer prevention and management at an early and later stage.
Cervical cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy are now practised with great ease and perfection in some of the top hospitals in the country.
Visit the C.K. Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Narola Yanger to get a personalized treatment plan. The highly qualified health practitioners at C.K. Birla Hospital and their cutting-edge technologies can provide you with great cervical cancer treatment and management services.