Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
Early detection helps treat cervical cancer successfully. Regular cervical screening can save thousands of lives every year.
What are the causes of cervical cancer?
The following factors are known to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer –
· Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV. Although, there are many types of the HPV virus, not all cause cervical cancer.·
· Having multiple sex partners - Cervical cancer-causing types of HPV are transmitted due to sexual contact with an infected individual. Women with multiple sexual partners are at a higher risk of becoming infected with HPV.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
There are rarely any symptoms during the early stages of cervical cancer. But, in some cases the following symptoms may be seen -
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during sex
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, such as foul smelling discharge, watery or thick discharge
How is cervical cancer detected?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises the PAP test for every women over 30 years of age. During a Pap test, the doctor scrapes a small sample of cervical cells to check for any abnormal cell changes.
Pap test does not detect cancer; it just looks for abnormal changes in the cervical cells. If left untreated, some abnormal cells can eventually develop into cancer.
How is cervical cancer treated?
Depending on how much the cancer has grown, patients may have to undergo one or more of the following treatment options-
· Surgery – It is commonly used when the cancer is confined to the cervix.
· Radiation Therapy – It is an alternative to surgery in some cases of early stage cervical cancer; or can also be used alongside surgery.
· Chemotherapy - A combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is used in advanced cases of cervical cancer.
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
The following measure help reduce the chances of developing cervical cancer-
· HPV vaccine – The vaccine protects against two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
· Regular Pap test – Regular Pap tests almost always detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix before they turn into cancer. In case of abnormal results, see a doctor to treat these abnormal cell changes. This may help prevent cervical cancer.
· Safe sex – The HPV that causes cervical cancer is spread through sexual contact. Therefore, practice safer sex and limit the number of sexual partners.
Dr. Trupti Shirole