- Cervical cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted infection.
- It doesn’t cause symptoms until the late stages.
- Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
95% of all cervical cancer diagnoses are linked to HPV, a common sexually transmitted virus that many people are exposed to at some point in their lives. Other risks linked to the development of the diease are smoking, having multiple sexual partners, pregnancy before the age of 20, and a compromised immune system, such as in women with HIV.
Cervical cancer pertains to the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cells in the cervix that can spread to other parts of the body. The disease often takes years to develop. Before the development of cancerous cells and tumors, the lining of the cervix undergoes abnormal changes called cervical dysplasia, which can serve as an early symptom of malignancy. However, a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia in itself is not considered a cancer diagnosis.
HPV infection and cervical cancer do not usually cause any symptoms, but there are a few signs and symptoms you can watch out for, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with HPV.
Cervical cancer in late stages is more likely to cause symptoms than early-stage cervical cancer.
Symptoms can include genital warts, abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, back pain, leg swelling, bowel and bladder symptoms such as urinary incontinence and blood in the urine, and symptoms of metastasis, such as shortness of breath, confusion, and bone fractures.
Diagnosing cervical cancer entails examining a tissue taken from the cervix, usually through a method called Pap smear, where your doctor collects cells from your cervix. Imaging tests may also be required to determine the extent of the spread of cancer. Other methods used to diagnose cervical cancer include a physical examination of your pelvic or a biopsy to remove a more substantial amount of tissue to help define the size and edges of cervical cancer or dysplasia.
Doctors classify cervical dysplasia based on the extent of abnormality of the sampled cells. Cervical cancer is also staged based on the extent of the disease’s progress. Stages range from I to IV, with Stage I indicating a microscopic lesion that has invaded the cervix. Those with Stage I cancer have a 95% five-year survival rate if it is removed. For those with Stage IV, cancer has spread to distant organs and is associated with a 15-20% five-year survival rate.
Cervical dysplasia starts as mild, progresses to moderate dysplasia, and then may turn into severe dysplasia before developing into cervical cancer when not treated.
The treatment can be as simple as removing the tissue. If the whole tumor was removed and has not spread, you might not need further treatment. However, if the cancer is large or appears to have spread, you may require extensive surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.
Other surgical options include loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), cryosurgery, conization, removal of the cervix, or removal of the uterus.
Getting regular medical examinations is the best way to identify cervical cancer risk factors or early signs of dysplasia, while having Pap smears regularly scheduled based on the recommendations for your age is your best prevention against cervical cancer. If cervical dysplasia is diagnosed, regular screening should help ensure that it is caught (and removed) before it progresses to cancer.
Preventing HPV infection is also crucial. An excellent preventive measure is practicing safe sex. HPV has over 100 different types and Gardasil 9 guards against those that can cause cervical cancer.
Quitting smoking can also reduce your chances of developing cervical cancer.
Source: Very Well Health