Cervical CancerCancer » Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affects a woman's reproductive organs. The cervix is a female reproductive organ that forms the lower portion of the uterus. The uterus and cervix lie in the pelvis, on top of the vagina, in between the rectum and bladder. The cervix forms the part of the birth canal that opens to the vagina. Cervical cancer is malignant neoplasm of the cervix uteri. One of the most common symptoms is normal vaginal bleeding.
The surface layer of the cervix is mostly composed of squamous cells. These cells of cervix merge with the glandular cells lining the cervical canal of the uterus. This area of merging is called the squamo-columnar junction and the area of the cervix outside this junction is called the transformation zone. In Cervical cancer when cervical cells grow out of control, they spread and grow throughout the cervix and may invade and destroy neighboring organs. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a necessary factor in the development of almost all cases of it.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms
In the early stages of Cervical cancer, there are rarely any symptoms. It's symptoms often go unnoticed because they mimic so many other ailments. Manytimes, however, Cervical cancer has no symptoms.
- Vaginal Discharge: A vaginal discharge is a common symptom related to many women's conditions. In advanced Cervical cancer, a vaginal discharge may be present and may or may not have an odor.
- Abnormal Bleeding: Women suffering from Cervical cancer may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. This can be heavy or light bleeding during the month.
- Pelvic Pain: Pelvic pain that is not related to the normal menstrual cycle can be a Cervical cancer symptom.
- Bleeding Between Regular Menstrual Periods, after sexual intercourse: This is due to irritation of the cervix during these activities. While the healthy cervix may have a very small amount of bleeding, many conditions may cause bleeding after activities like sex.
Cervical Cancer Causes
The main cause of Cervical cancer is abnormal changes in the cervical tissue. The risk of developing these abnormal changes have been associated with certain factors, including previous infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), early sexual contact, multiple sexual partners, cigarette smoking, and taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills). Women who have partner who has had sexual contact with a woman with cervical cancer may also fall prey to it.
Cervical Cancer Treatments
Surgery: This is a process to remove the cancer tissues.
- Conization: A procedure to remove a cone shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. This may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition. This procedure is also called cone biopsy.
- Total Hysterectomy: In this, the surgery is done for the removal of the uterus, including the cervix. If the uterus and the cervix are taken out through the vagina, the operation is called a vaginal hysterectomy. If this is done through a large incision (cut) in the abdomen, it is called total abdominal hysterectomy and if this is done through a small incision using a laparoscope, then the operation is called total laparoscopic hysterectomy.
- Radical Trachelectomy: This can be performed abdominally or vaginally and there are conflicting options as to which is better. In this treatment the woman requires only a two or three day hospital stay.
- Laser Surgery: A surgical procedure that uses a laser beam as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissues or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.
- Cryosurgery: This is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma.
Radiation Therapy: The therapy is a common cervical cancer treatment and is used in a variety of ways. It may be the primary cancer treatment, instead of surgery. This therapy might also be used in conjunction with surgery. In radiation therapy, high energy rays are used to destroy cancer cells, and the radiation is aimed at a specific part of the body, so that it only affects cells in that area. There are two different types of radiation therapy :
- External radiation : It comes from the large machine outside the body, that directs the rays at the pelvis or other tissues where the cancer has spread. This is also called systematic therapy. It uses x-ray or gamma ray energy to deliver treatment to the affected area. In women with cervical cancer, pelvic external radiation is given and is done so through the use of a machine that resembles an x-ray machine.
- Internal radiation: This radiation therapy is also called brachytherapy. In this radiation, thin tubes (called implants) containing a radioactive substance are left in the vagina for few hours or up to three days. This therapy may be repeated a few times over the course of several weeks. Once the tubes are removed, no radioactivity will be left in the woman's body.
Chemotherapy: This therapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be given to women whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body or if the cancer has come back after radiotherapy. The drugs given in the therapy are administrated most commonly intravenously or by mouth. The main goal of chemotherapy is to attack cancer cells and prevent the formation of new cells. Many different methods of chemotherapy exist. Tablets or creams can be taken. However, most of chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into your bloodstream. Chemotherapy is often very effective in treating it.
Unfortunately, there are some side effects of the method, that it is unable to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells. Chemotherapy targets all the quick dividing cells within the body. Consequently, the patient may experience nausea, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, constipation and an increased tendency to develop infections.
Tremendous strides have been made in reducing the rate of cervical cancer. Cancer of die cervix is the only type of cancer where a screening procedure has been shown to influence the morality of disease. It is most often diagnosed in middle aged women, with half of those diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 55. Cervical cancer is very rarely seen in women less than 20 years of age.