Cancer is a fatal condition, but with early detection and proper treatment, deaths can be prevented. If you have cervical cancer, the chances of your body fighting this disease and surviving remain.
Cervical cancer is a cancer of the lower part of the uterus called the womb that links to the vagina. This cancer occurs when the tumor grows uncontrollably occupying the deeper tissues of the cervix and these cells spread to the vagina, rectum, bladder, liver, and lungs.
This cancer can be detected early with diagnosis and can be treated. Some women are diagnosed with cervical cancer when they are in their 20s and 30s. However, others are diagnosed with cervix cancer in their advanced years, such as in their 40s and 50s.
Girls who are sexually active before the age of 16 or less than a year after starting their menstrual period have a higher chance of developing cervical cancer. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have cervical screening every 3 years, while those between 30 and 65 should have it every 5 years.
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Causes of Cervical Cancer
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Almost all cervical cancer patients are those previously infected with HPV. HPV is a class of viruses that develop through sexual contact, and other contacts such as genital contact and using sex toys. Not all HPV are cancerous, but some types of HPV are at increased risk. Since most HPV types do not cause any symptoms, you may not be aware of your infection at all until screening is done.
- Precancerous Cervical Abnormalities – Changes in the cells of the cervix start to show before any Cervical cancer is developed. These changes are cervical irregularities known as Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) or Cervical Glandular Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CGIN). It depends on the affected cells. These precancerous irregularities are not suddenly life-threatening but could cause cancer if not detected and treated early.
- Other Risk Factors – Another possible cause is having more than one sexual partner – having multiple sexual partners from your side as well as from your partners can increase your chances of acquiring HPV.
- Early Sexual Activity – Having primary sexual activity at a young age raises the possibility of having HPV. Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/AIDS, also increase the chances of HPV.
- A weak immune system – if you have a weak immune system the possibility of cervical cancer and HPV is higher.
- Smoking – Women who have a habit of smoking once or twice daily have higher chances of getting HPV because of the harmful chemical in tobacco that affects the cells of the cervix.
- Oral Contraception – Taking oral contraceptives for more than 5 years increases the risk of HPV, although the reason remains unclear. A family with more than five children or children born early (under 17 years).
- Taking the hormonal drug Diethylstilboestrol (DES) – While pregnant, there is a risk of the child having HPV. Although this link is unclear, it may be the hormonal drugs during pregnancy making the cervix more unsafe for HPV.
Types of Cervical Cancer
There are two major types of cervical cancer:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This cancer begins in the thin, flat cells called Squamous cells that line the outer part of the cervix. It projects into the vagina. The most common type of cervical cancer is this one.
- Adenocarcinoma – Cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Symptoms do not appear until the progression of cancer. It includes the symptoms:
- The bleeding that occurs during and after periods or after menopause is abnormal.
- Intercourse that causes discomfort or pain.
- Vaginal discharge that is unusual and unpleasant.
- Pain in the lower back or pelvis.
Diagnosis and Tests
- The screening includes a PET test or HPV DNA test.
- Doubt having cervical cancer.
- A complete examination by a doctor with a Colposcopic examination followed by a biopsy through Punch biopsy or endocervical curettage.
- The other option is to apply an electrical wire loop biopsy or a cone biopsy.
- If diagnosed with cervical cancer. Phasing is done to find out the range of your cancer. These tests include:
- Image tests – X-Ray, MRI, PET, and CT Scan.
- Optical examination of your bladder and rectum.
Types of Treatment
The treatment is based on the type of cervical cancer you have, its phase, age, and if you are planning to get pregnant in the future. Different types of treatment are available:
- Cryosurgery – When the unhealthy cells are found on the outside of the cervix, the surgeon may inject a gas with these unhealthy cells known as ice balls, a liquid-forming gas. The abnormal cells die as a result.
- Laser Surgery – A primary phase of cancer is treated with this surgery. Here the surgeon utilizes laser beans to burn the unhealthy cells.
- Conization – This surgery is suggested before chemotherapy or radiation and for those women who are planning to have a baby in the future. The surgeon used the loop electrosurgical removal process or LEEP to remove the shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. If cancer cells are found, chemotherapy or radiation will be recommended.
- Radiation – If you are undergoing radiation therapy, it will make you experience premenopause. This includes high-power energy beams such as X-Rays or protons used to destroy the tumors. It can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy drugs. Your doctor will suggest the preservation of eggs before treatment.
- Chemotherapy – Injections of this medication are used to destroy cancer tumors in liquid form. Low doses may be combined with radiation while higher doses are used for advanced cancer stages.
- Hysterectomy – The surgeon eliminates your uterus and cervix and may remove your ovaries and fallopian tubes completely unless necessary. It depends on your health.
- Radical hysterectomy – During this procedure, the surgeon removes your uterus, a part of your vagina, lymph nodes, and tissues surrounding it. There is no need to remove the ovaries or fallopian tubes unless they are damaged.
- Trachelectomy – This is also suggested for those who still want to have children in the future. The surgeon removes your cervix and the top part of your vagina, but leaves the uterus intact, placing a stitch or band where the cervix was. Lymph nodes close to the cervix or uterus may also be eliminated.
- Pelvic Exenteration – A recurrence of cancer cells is treated by this surgical procedure. The surgeon removes the cervix, uterus, and nearby lymph nodes and organs if cancer has spread to other parts of the body. If a part of your colon or bladder is removed, you may need to wear a colostrum.
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- Physical examination of the uterus by your doctor.
- Screening and diagnostic tests are to be done.
- Your doctor will determine the extent and stage of your cancer.
- Your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment option for you.
- Inform your doctor of your medical history, current medications, and any allergies.
- Certain medications, such as blood thinners or herbal supplements, will need to be stopped.
- You will be asked to stop smoking as it influences your healing process.
- You will be asked to have an empty stomach for 8 – 12 hours before surgery.
- Any medication prescribed should be taken with a few sips of water.
- The procedure will be performed under general anesthesia, so you will not feel any pain while asleep.
- Depending on your condition, the appropriate thing will be done for you.
- The incision may be done through the abdomen or vagina.
- The surgeon may perform laparoscopic surgery by utilizing surgical tools and cameras.
- The incisions are stitched, and the dressing is applied.
- The operation may take about an hour or so depending on the complications.
- You may feel a temporary sore or discomfort and if necessary, pain medications will be administered.
- You may stay in a hospital for three to five days.
- Recovery takes about four to six weeks.
- If you are prescribed colostrum, you will be familiar with the precautions.
- Your surgeon will tell you what schedules to follow.
Risks and Complications
Like other surgeries, this surgery has some risks and complications based on the patient’s medical condition. This includes:
- Blood clots
- Early menopause
- Narrowing of the vagina
Factors affecting the cost of Cervical Cancer
The cost of cervical cancer treatment starts at 1800 dollars. Generally, the price for surgery is based on some factors:
Type of stage of cancer.
Type of treatment.
Location of the hospital.
Choice of the hospital.
Cost of diagnostic tests.
Duration of hospital stay.