What Cervical Cancer Actually is
The cervix is a region of the woman’s body. It is the bridge or the connection between the uterus and the vagina. With the cervix being a part of the woman’s body, cervical cancer can only be found in women. There are various kinds of cancers, but cancer that begins in the cervix is medically referred to as cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer begins in the cells and tissues of the cervix and may later spread to other parts of the body, which could include the lungs, the vagina, liver, bladder, and rectum. The process of the effects of cancer moving from its original point to other regions of the body is known as metastasis.
The major cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Though preventable with a vaccine, it is quite impossible to treat. Cervical cancer develops slowly, which is an advantage for its victims to have enough time to manage and treat it before it begins to spread throughout the body and lead to chronic complications, which might result in death.
Research holds that women between ages 34 and 44 are most likely to suffer from cervical cancer, while 16% of new cases have been found in women between ages 65 and 75.
Further research unveiled the following;
- Over 85% of women with stage 0 cervical cancer survive cancer at least 4 to 5 years after diagnosis.
- Women with stage 1 cervical cancer have an 80-93% tendency of having a 5-year survival after diagnosis.
- Women with stage 2 cervical cancer have a 58-63% tendency of having a 5-year survival after diagnosis.
- Women with stage 3 cervical cancer have a 32-35% tendency of 5-year survival after diagnosis.
- Less than 16% of women with stage 4 cervical cancer have a tendency of 5-year survival after diagnosis.
Medical practitioners do not use the word “cure” after successfully treating cervical cancer; they use the word “remission” instead because it is possible that cancer comes back even after adequate treatment.
The same way there are various sorts of cancer is the same way there are different kinds of cervical cancers. The following are the various types of cervical cancers;
- Squamous cell carcinoma; this type of cervical cancer is the most common and is found in almost all cases of cervical cancer. It forms in the lining of the cervix.
- Adenocarcinoma; this cervical cancer forms in the cells that produce mucus in the cervix.
- Mixed carcinoma; is a combination of the other two types of cervical cancer.
- Stage 1: here, the cancer is still tiny and has not spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 2: cancer becomes bigger at this stage and must have spread to the uterus and lymph nodes but has not gotten to other parts of your body.
- Stage 3: cancer at this point must have spread to the vagina and the pelvis. It then begins to block the uterus and the tubes that transport urine to the bladder from the kidneys. Here, it has still not spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 4: at this stage, cancer has spread throughout the body to vital organs like the lungs, liver, and bones.
Causes and Risk Factors
It begins with the sudden change in the cervical tissues. The major known cause of this cancer is the infection of the human papillomavirus. There are over 100 types of human papillomaviruses. Some kinds of the human papillomavirus cause skin infections like genital warts and skin warts, while only two types (HPV-16 and HPV18) are responsible for some kinds of cancers in the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, tongue, penis, and tonsils.
The risk factors of cervical cancer include;
- Early sex; Engaging in early sexual activities can lead to cervical cancer as the female body is not mature enough for sex.
- Many sex partners; Having too many sexual partners can increase one’s chances of suffering from cervical cancer. The higher the number of your sexual partners and the higher the number of your partners’ sexual partners, the higher your risks of being infected by the human papillomavirus.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections; STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV/AIDS expose you more to being infected by the human papillomavirus.
- Weak immune system; Having underlying health conditions coupled with a weak immune system can increase your chances of infections from the human papillomavirus.
- Smoking; The major kind of cervical cancer that is commonly associated with women who smoke is squamous cell cancer.
- Anti-miscarriage drugs; Using drugs that help prevent miscarriage can have adverse effects like increasing your risk of developing a particular type of cervical cancer (adenocarcinoma).
- Genetics or family history
- Usage of certain contraceptives
The early stage of cervical cancer comes with zero symptoms. The more the cancer advances, the more symptoms begin to surface and worsen if left untreated. The following are symptoms of cervical cancer;
- Bleeding from the vagina either after sex, between the monthly menstrual cycle, and after menopause
- Bloody or watery discharge from the vagina. This discharge could be heavy but usually comes with a terribly foul odor.
- Pain in the pelvis and pain during sexual intercourse
After cancer must have spread from its original infection point (the cervix) to other parts of the body like the lungs, vagina, vulva, and so on, the following visible symptoms can ensue;
- Difficulty passing urine
- Swollen legs
- Severe pelvic ache and pain
- Severe bone pain
- Kidney failure
- Lack of appetite and drastic weight loss
Medical practitioners have recommended that women should go for several pap tests at some points in their lives in order to prevent cancer in people who have the tendency of developing cervical cancer. Constant testing also helps with early diagnosis in people who already have it but do not know.
During these tests, cells are harvested from the cervix and sent to the lab to be tested for cancerous and precancerous tendencies. In addition, medical practitioners have advised thus;
- At age 21 to 29, women should go for a pap smear test at least once every three years.
- At age 30 to 65, women should go for a pap smear test once every 3 years and an HPV test once every 5 years.
When the cancer is still very small, surgery can be conducted to cut off the cancerous cell only. Sometimes, part of the cervical tissue is removed, such that getting pregnant in the future would still be possible.
Another kind of surgery involves the total removal of the cervix. This does not in any way have any effect on your tendencies of getting pregnant in the future since the uterus still remains intact.
This can be done either internally or externally. Both processes involve directing a device filled with radioactive materials on the affected area of your body to shrink and kill the cancer cells.
This involves using chemicals to kill cancer cells. It could be injected into the body through the vein or could be administered in the form of pills. However, when cancer must have gotten to an advanced stage, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy.
This involves targeting the weaknesses of these cancer cells. Hitting their weak points makes them weak and kills them in the process. It is sometimes done in isolation in mild cases of cervical cancer but is usually combined with chemotherapy in advanced cases of cervical cancer.
This is a treatment that strengthens the immune system enough to be able to fight cancer cells. Though your immune system might not be able to detect these cancer cells because these cells disguise by producing proteins that make them unnoticeable by the immune system. Immunotherapy becomes effective when it interferes with the cancer cells’ process of toxic protein production.
- Speak to your doctor about the HPV test
- Go for other tests like the pap smear test.
- Do not have too many sex partners. Practice safe sex
- Don’t smoke
- Get enough rest at night.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
- Engage in a healthy physical exercise routine
In conclusion, cervical cancer is common cancer among women. It begins with the cervix’s cells and tissues, eats deep into it, and spread to other parts of the body if ignored. Medical practitioners have recommended various preventive and treatment measures to help ease women- both those who have cancer and those who do not, of the stress and trauma of cervical cancer.