Know about Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix that is the mouth of the uterus. With 528000 new cases every year worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women worldwide, after breast cancer.[1]

Cervical cancer has no symptoms in its early stages, there may happen to be unusual bleeding at times before or after the menstrual cycle or post sex but that doesn’t always indicates towards cervical cancer.

Screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early − in its most curable stage, it’s better to be aware and encourage regular checkups.

Risk factors for Cervical Cancer [2]

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection

HPV are called high-risk types because they are strongly linked to cancers, including cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women, penile cancer in men, and cancers of the anus, mouth, and throat in both men and women.

Smoking

It has been found that tobacco by-products damages the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to the development of cervical cancer and also makes the immune system less effective against HPV infections.

Chlamydia infection

Chlamydia is a very common infection of female reproductive tract, spread by sexual contact leading to pelvic inflammations and even infertility. It has been noticed female with cervical cancer either has the infection or had a history of such infection.

Having a family history of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer may run in some families. If your mother or sister had cervical cancer, your chances of developing the disease are 2 to 3 times higher than if no one in the family had it.

Being overweight

Overweight women are more likely to develop cancer of the cervix.

Oral Contraceptive Pills

Taking oral contraceptives (OCs) for a long time increases the risk of cancer of the cervix.

Multiple Sexual Partners

Increases the risk of sexually transmitted illnesses and eventually cervical cancer.

Compromised Immune system

Damaged immune system puts women at higher risk for HPV infections. Women with AIDS have a higher risk of cervical cancer.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Although there are no warning signs or symptom of cervical cancer. Symptoms appear mostly in the advanced stage of cancer.

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom. Bleeding occurring between menstrual periods or after sex.
  • Vaginal Discharge- Along with bleeding, other types of vaginal discharge is a common early symptoms of cervical cancer. The discharge may be watery, pale or brownish in colour, foul smelling and sometime blood stained .
  • Back or pelvic pain.
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating due to obstruction.
  • Swelling of one or both legs.
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Screening and Preventing Cervical Cancer

There are no means of completely preventing the condition but one can look towards means of checking the risk factors and reducing the chances of cervical cancer.

Screening

  1. Regular Pap Smear

The Pap test (or Pap smear) is a procedure used to collect cells from the cervix so that they can be looked at under a microscope to find cancer and pre-cancer. The test is needed to detect precancerous abnormalities and early-stage cervical cancer. Women who are 25-49 years of age should be screened every three year and those who are 50-64 years of age are advised every five years. Women with total hysterectomy do not need a Pap smear[3]

  1. HPV Testing

Women above 30 can have a HPV test combined with pap smear. Before 30 years the test is not significant as it’s too common to find and may not be of any risk.

3.   Pelvic Physical Examination and Colposcopy

If you have had an abnormal Pap smear, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy. A colposcopy uses a large magnifying glass to examine your cervix.

 a) Cervical Cancer Vaccination

Cervical cancer vaccination protects against four types of HPV, including the two strains responsible for majority of cancer cases. To know more about cervical cancer vaccine visit you doctor.

b) Having safe sex

As the spread of cancer is associated with HPV infection and as a known fact one of the reason can be not having a safe sex, so using protection while sex can be helpful although it’s known that HPV spreads through skin to skin contact and not due to penetrative sex.

Having multiple partners also increases the risk of cervical cancer.

c) Avoid or reduce smoking

Smokers are more likely to develop cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is 100% treatable if diagnosed in early stages, so it’s required for every women to understand the importance of getting screened for a healthy life.