Cervical cancer is the most leading cause of cancer deaths in women in many countries and ranks 4th among all the cancers.
More than 90% of all the cases occur in low and middle-income countries where there is a lack of early detection and treatment of cancer due to inadequate facilities and poor access to screening.
The disease is very dangerous taking a life every two minutes as we read this now.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cancer is a disease caused due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cervical cancer happens in women when the cancerous cells grow in the tissue of their cervix damaging the surrounding region and the other organs. It usually develops at a very slow rate, so an early diagnosis and proper treatment can eliminate the disease.
But at the same time, in some extreme worse conditions’ cancer can spread to other parts of the body like lungs, liver, urinary bladder, vagina, and rectum leading to metastasis.
Where is Cervix located?
The cervix is present in the reproductive system of a female and is the connecting bridge of the uterus and the vagina. It marks the lowermost end of the uterus and allows the flow of period blood from the uterus to the vagina, and acts as a passage for the sperms during intercourse.
Different Types of Cervical Cancer
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
In this type, cancer begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous) at the bottom of the cervix, which project into the vagina. About 80% of the cervical cancer occurrences are squamous cell carcinoma type.
Adenocarcinoma of cervix
In cervical adenocarcinoma, the cancer cells grow in the column-shaped glandular cells that line up the upper portion of the cervix. This type comprises 20% of cervical cancer cases.
On very rare occasions, cancer develops in other cells of the cervix.
In the early stages, it causes no pain or shows any abnormal symptoms. An early diagnosis through regular pelvic exams and Pap tests and adequate treatment can prevent cervical cancer at this stage. The major symptoms of the later stage are:
- Abnormal or heavy vaginal bleeding during the periods, or after the intercourse, or post-menopause, or between two consecutive menstrual cycles
- Bloody and heavy vaginal discharge with a foul odour
- Unbearable pain during intercourse
When undetected cervical cancer can spread to other parts of the body like the liver, urinary bladder, and vagina with the following symptoms:
- Severe pain and bloody discharge through urine
- Bleeding and pain in the rectum
- Swollen abdomen with nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Backpain and fatigue
- Swelling in the legs
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
The main reason for cervical cancer is the infection caused due to Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus transmitted through sexual contact.
There are more than 100 types of Human Papillomavirus of which 14 are known to cause cervical cancer. HPV is also known to cause various other types of cancers like vaginal cancer, anal cancer, and throat cancer, etc., Most of the time HPV is easily tackled by the immune system of the human body and preventing it from doing any damage.
But in some people with a weak immune system, the virus stays for a longer time attacking and thus leading to cervical cancer. This indicates that the infection is not just limited to sexual contact but also depends upon the surrounding and lifestyle habits of the patient.
Risk Factors :
Following factors increase the chances of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection which leads to cervical cancer:
- An HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection causing AIDS leads to a weak immune system that acts as an entry for HPV
- Undergone pregnancy more than thrice
- Consuming birth control pills for more than 5 years
- Unprotected sexual intercourse and having multiple sexual partners
- Prone to STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) like chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhoea
Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Regular screening and maintaining good hygiene can help in preventing cervical cancer. The pap tests and HPV tests can help in diagnosing cancer at an early stage and with proper treatment, it can be cured.
The HPV vaccines are now available to children in the age group 9-12 years. The adults of the age group 21-26 years can also be administered this vaccine if they have not been vaccinated earlier.
These vaccinations can prevent any new HPV infections in the body, but they do not fight against already existing HPV in the body.
- Avoid Smoking – Smoking leads to squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix
- Safe Sexual Practices – Avoid multiple sex partners and use external contraceptive methods to prevent HPV infection
The standard types of treatment are as follows,
The early-stage can be cured by surgical procedures like cone biopsy, trachelectomy, and hysterectomy, by removing the areas affected by cancer.
This method uses high-powered energy beams to kill the cancer cells and also to avoid the recurrence of cancer after surgery. Radiation therapy can either be external or internal. This procedure can cause menopause in women.
The chemotherapy procedure involves the administration of chemicals through injection or pills as treatment. This treatment is given in cycles for a certain period of time.
This treatment uses drugs like Bevacizumab (Avastin) to target the weak areas of the cancer cells. Targeted therapy is often combined with chemotherapy for the treatment of cervical cancer at later stages.
The affected cancer cells release some proteins which weaken the immune system and make it incapable of detecting any potential threats. Immunotherapy helps the immune system to grow stronger so that it can identify and fight the cancer cells off.
Post Treatment Care
Similar to other types of cancer, cervical cancer too can relapse and harm the cells of the body. To prevent this recurrence, one should follow the post-treatment recovery plan advised by their doctors.
The oncologists recommend follow-up with them once every 3 to 6 weeks for the first few months after the treatment. The patients should undergo Pap tests once every few months to find any signs of cervical cancer showing up again.
They should also strictly follow the dietary supplements or any lifestyle changes recommended by their doctors.
This procedure should be done if the doctor suspects the risk of cervical cancer coming back again.
Message from Bliss Naturals
Living with cervical cancer can pose multiple challenges that can affect your everyday life, your health, and your emotions and feelings. Most women feel nervous, depressed, frightened, and resentful.
Involving family members or friends in the treatment process can help the patients by positively motivating them. If the cancer is found and treated early, the survival rate in women with cervical cancer is more than 60%.
So, women should consider visiting their doctors regularly in order to prevent or diagnose cervical cancer infection.