What is Cervical Cancer?
It is a type of cancer that arises from the cervix. The cells that grow abnormally will affect and spread to other parts of the body. On its early stages, the person affected with the said disease shows no sign and symptoms of cervical cancer. But later on, symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, and pain during sexual intercourse will be felt. It is recommended that a person experiencing these symptoms should submit herself for a cervical check-up as soon as possible.
According to statistics, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in women around the world. In 2012 alone, more than 500,000 cases of cervical cancer were reported and more than 250,000 died because of this disease.
Risk factors for cervical cancer
Anything that affects the chances of acquiring any disease is a risk factor. The Human Papilloma Virus Infections or HPV is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. With 150 related viruses, it can cause the emergence of the papillomas or commonly known as warts. If a woman is infected with HPV, it will infect the skin surface like the genital linings, anus, mouth, and throat. HPV is usually spread by sexual contact. If you want to have a lower risk factor of acquiring cervical cancer, it is best to avoid vices such as smoking and drinking. Practicing safe sex is also important.
Other Cervical cancer risk factors include:
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Long-term use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- Intrauterine device use
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Being younger than 17 at your first full-term pregnancy
- Having a family history of cervical cancer
Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer
A woman who has cervical cancer will not feel any symptoms until the cancer has already grown and affected the nearby tissues of the cervix. When the cancer cells have already grown and invaded the tissues, symptom will slowly manifest. The most common symptoms are:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (bleeding after sexual intercourse)
- Bleeding after menopause
- Bleeding and spotting between periods
- Longer menstrual periods
- Heavier menstrual discharge
- Unusual vaginal discharge between periods or after menopause
- Pain during sexual intercourse
A woman having these problems should immediately go to a health care professional and let herself be checked and screened for cervical cancer. Regular Pap test is also advised.
Cervical Cancer Prevention
The prevention of cervical cancer starts with finding and treating the pre-cancers before they become a full blown cancer. The best way to do this is through testing and screening. Pap test and HPV test should also be conducted. If a pre-cancer is found after these tests, treatment should be done immediately before the cancer becomes invasive.
Here are some ways to prevent pre-cancers and cancers:
- Practice safe sex
- Use condoms
- Avoid smoking
- Get vaccinated
A woman that is diagnosed to have cervical cancer must not lose hope. There are procedures and treatments done to curing cervical cancer.
Treatment of cervical cancer stages IB and IIA are as follows:
- Radiation therapy with chemotherapy given at the same time.
- Radical hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without radiation therapy to the pelvis, plus chemotherapy.
- Radical trachelectomy.
- Chemotherapy followed by surgery
Why is it important to be screened for cervical cancer?
Having been screened and tested for cervical cancer will give a woman the best chance of finding pre-cancer and cancer cells at its early stages. This will also make treatment easier and more successful in the event that cancer cells are found.
Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers when it is detected early. In the last 30 years, the death rate in cervical cancer patients has declined by more than 50 percent in the United States. This is because more women are now more aware of the importance of screening and testing for cervical cancer.
Around the world, death related to cervical cancer is higher in developing countries. This is because cervical cancer and the importance of screening and testing for the early detection of the disease are not well promoted by their government. Women who suffer from cervical cancer in these countries are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at its late stages.
Even if there are already HPV vaccines available for the prevention of cervical cancer, the vaccine will not completely protect a woman from having cervical cancer. Other types of HPV can still cause cervical cancer. This is why it is important that women should regularly have Pap test and cervical screening even if they are already vaccinated with HPV.
Cervical Cancer Awareness
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month. Awareness of this type of cancer is of great importance because it can lead to saving more lives. As already stated, this cancer is often only noticed or felt when it has already progressed. Spreading awareness about the risks can help women understand the importance of getting tested and screened for cervical cancer early on.
Awareness for this disease can be spread by wearing an awareness bracelet. The color for Cervical Cancer Awareness is teal/white.