What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in a woman’s cervix, an organ that connects the vagina (birth canal) to the uterus (womb). If not treated on time, these clumps of uncontrolled cells in the cervix cause severe symptoms and may even spread (metastasize) to surrounding organs such as the bladder, rectum or distant organs like liver, lung, bone.
Epidemiology of cervical cancer
The estimated incidence of cervical cancer is high occurring 13·1 per 100 000 women globally and it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. It also accounts for the second most common cancer in middle-aged women (age 14-49). 2.
What causes Cervical cancer?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection
More than 99% of cases of cervical cancer are caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 100 strains of HPV out of which the high risk strains particularly HPV 16 & HPV 18 are responsible for causing around 70% of cervical cancer cases. 3.
What are the RIsk Factors for Cervical Cancer?
The factors that increase your risk of developing cervical cancer include,
- Multiple sexual partners: It increases the risk of HPV infection
- Pre-existing sexually transmitted diseases: STIs such as Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, AIDS, Syphilis increases the susceptibility to HPV infection.
- Young age at first coitus
- Multiple pregnancies
- Immunosuppression: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more prone to developing cancer
- Long Term use of contraceptive (birth control) pills, as females on pills are less likely to use barrier contraception
- Poor genital hygiene
- Low socio-economic status
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Early-stage cervical cancer rarely causes any symptoms. In most cases, symptoms may occur as cancer becomes invasive. Some common symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Watery vaginal discharge with offensive odour
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Intermenstrual bleeding (Bleeding in between two periods)
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Pelvic pain or low backache
- Swelling of legs
- Discomfort during urination, blood in urine
- Rectal Bleeding or loose motions
- Unexplained weight loss
How to prevent Cervical Cancer?
- Regular screening with PAP test helps to detect the presence of precancerous lesions in cervix.
- Getting an HPV vaccine prevents Human papillomavirus infection, one of the leading causative factors for cervical cancer
- Practice safe sex, use condoms or dental dams.
What is the standard test for detecting Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer can be diagnosed by taking biopsy from a growth visible over the cervix. When no growth is visible colposcopy but the symptoms are suspicious for cancer then the doctor will examine the cervix via colposcopy and will take a directed biopsy from a suspicious looking area of cervix.
What are the stages of Cervical Cancer?
Based on the extent of spread, cervical cancer is classified as follows:
Carcinoma in situ. It's not cancer but precancer.
Cancer is limited to the cervix.
The cancer cells spread beyond the cervix to the neighbouring tissues but not to the pelvic side wall or the lower third of vagina.
Cancerous cells spread to the sidewalls of the pelvis and / or to lower third of vagina, which in turn may cause edema (swelling) of the kidney and ureter. There is no distant spread.
The last stage of cancer, in which the cancerous cells spread from the cervix to other organs like bladder, rectum, liver, lung, bone etc.
How is Cervical Cancer managed or treated?
Treatment for cervical cancer usually depends on the stage, age & overall health of the patient. With treatment, most early stage cervical cancer cases are curable. The common treatment options include.
It is the treatment of chice in early stage of cancer in which not just the uterus and cervix are removed but the adjacent tissues called parametria and lymph nodes are also removed .
- After surgery, patient may or may not require radiation depending on the final biopsy report.
- This radiation therapy procedure aims at killing or shrinking the growth of cancerous cells in the cervical region. Radiation therapy can be offered in all the stages of cervical cancer.
- Chemotherapy medications such as Cisplatin, carboplatin, and paclitaxel are often used to slow the growth of the cancerous cell or help relieve symptoms.
- Chemotherapy is also used in some cases along with radiation therapy to increase the effect of radiation treatment.
Measures to prevent recurrence of Cervical Cancer after treatment:
- In select cases, surgery is followed by adjuvant radiation to prevent recurrence.
- Regular follow-up pelvic examination and imaging tests can help to detect the recurrence earlier
Expected prognosis of Cervical Cancer
Fortunately, recent advances in diagnostic procedures, treatment options and medications have drastically reduced the number of new cases of cervical cancer and its associated death.
Natural progression of Cervical Cancer
Like other cancer types, if left untreated, cervical cancer spreads to surrounding organs such as the bladder, rectum, kidney, and so on. This progression may cause life-threatening health conditions and can even lead to death.
Pathophysiology of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the cervix. It is most commonly caused by sexually transmitted human papillomavirus infection.
Possible complications of Cervical Cancer
The possible complications of advanced cervical cancer are as follows:
- Vaginal haemorrhage
- Kidney failure leading to uremia
- Blood clots
- Radiating pain in nerve endings, bones, and muscles
- Depression & despair
Our BLK-Max Medical Experts
If you are facing any similar signs or symptoms please contact the BLK-Max team to schedule an appointment at : +91-11-30403040