Cervical Cancer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman’s reproductive organs. The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix.

Like all cancers, cancer of the cervix is much more likely to be cured if it is detected early and treated immediately. The cervical canal is a passageway. Blood flows from the uterus through the canal into the vagina during a woman’s menstrual period. During childbirth, the cervix dilates (opens) to allow the baby to pass through the vagina.

Worldwide, approximately 500,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year.

Causes

If young women with early abnormal changes do not have regular examinations, they are at high risk for carcinoma in situ by the time they are age 40 and for invasive cancer by age 50. In adults the most important risk factor for HPV is sexual activity with an infected person. Women most at risk for cervical cancer are those with a history of multiple sexual partners, sexual intercourse at an early age. Women who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that damage the genetic structure (DNA) of the body’s cells. Women who are transplant patients, who are on corticosteroid medications long-term or who have HIV are at increased risk because their immunity is suppressed.

Symptoms

The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding. This is any bleeding from the vagina other than during menstruation. Bleeding may stop and start again between regular periods or there may be bleeding after menopause. Unexpected bleeding can also occur after intercourse or a pelvic exam.

Few symptoms are-

* Anemia because of abnormal vaginal bleeding.
* Ongoing pelvic, leg, or back pain.
* Urinary problems because of blockage of a kidney or ureter.
* Leakage of urine or fecal content into the vagina because an abnormal opening has developed between the vagina and the bladder or rectum.
* Weight loss.

Treatment

Patients whose cancer has invaded only the cervix and those whose disease has extended into the tissues next to the cervix or to the upper vagina can be treated effectively with either surgery or radiation therapy. Treatment of cervical cancer during pregnancy depends on the stage of the cancer and the stage of the pregnancy. For cervical cancer found early or for cancer found during the last trimester of pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born.

Carcinoma in situ may be removed using loop electrode excision, cryosurgery, or laser ablation. In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is circulated through a probe, which is applied to cancerous tissue. Freezing temperatures destroy the cancer cells.