What is Cervical Cancer?

November 2, 2009 by admin 

Cervical cancer is cancer in the cervix which connects the uterus to the vagina or birth canal of women. Cervical cancer occurs when normal cells in the cervix change into cancer cells. This usually takes several years but it can also occur in a very short period of time. Cervical cancer is a disease that can be very serious. However, the good news is that cervical cancer can be prevented.Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the main factor for nearly all cases of cervical cancer.  Other risk factors include smoking, low socioeconomic status, and infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.There may be completely no symptoms during the early stages of cervical cancer . Vaginal bleeding or other discharge and moderate pain during sexual intercourse are the main symptoms of cervical cancer. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer are loss of appetite, pelvic pain, back pain, weight loss, fatigue, leg pain, single swollen leg, vaginal bleeding, leaking of urine or feces from the vagina, and bone fractures.Initial diagnosis of cervical cancer begins with a positive Pap test, which is followed by a more comprehensive examination to confirm the presence of cervical cancer. A biopsy is then performed either by cone biopsy or colposcopy. Once cervical cancer has been diagnosed, its stage is then determined. The diagnostic tests used in determining the stage of cervical cancer are palpation, inspection, colposcopy, hysteroscopy, cystoscopy, endocervical curettage, intravenous urography, proctoscopy, X-ray examination of the lungs and skeleton, and cervical conization. The survival rate for cervical cancer is fairly high when the cancer is diagnosed in the early or pre-invasive state and early invasive state. But the survival rates are considerably lower when the cancer has spread outside the uterus.Treatment for cervical cancer consists of surgery in early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in advanced stages. Surgery is an effective treatment for noninvasive cervical cancers. Radiation therapy is effective when the cancer has spread beyond the surface of the cervix. Radiation therapy may cause side effects such as premature menopause, bladder irritation, or a narrowing of the vagina due to scar tissue buildup. Chemotherapy is used when cervical cancer has spread beyond the uterus. The use of a combination of two chemotherapy drugs, hycamtin and cisplatin are recommended for women with late-stage cervical cancer. But this combination treatment has the risk of side effects such as neutropenia, anemia, and thrombocytopenia.Women must be aware of risk factors and prevention methods of cervical cancer. In developed countries, cervical screening programs have widely reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer by more than 50%. Most cervical cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and by getting regular Pap tests. HPV infection and HIV infection can be reduced or prevented by avoiding sexual contact with individuals who have had multiple sexual partners. HPV vaccine is effective against HPV infection. Women should have regular Pap smear screening even after vaccination. Pap smear screening can identify precancerous changes. Treatment of high grade changes can prevent the development of cancer. By getting regular Pap tests and pelvic exams, your health care provider can find and treat the changing cells before they turn into cancer. The medical societies recommend annual Pap test and pelvic exam for all women who are above 18 years of age or who have become sexually active.


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