Cause and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is uncommon in developed countries where screening is strictly implemented. Internationally, cervical cancer remains to be one of the most common cancers in women. As a matter of fact, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the developing countries. Based on The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most commonly type of cancer that occurs in ages 50 to 70 years old. However, there is an increase in the number of reported cases of in women less than 40 years old over the last two decades.
The cause of cervical cancer has already been established through numerous studies and researches. It has been known that it develops from genital infection caused by certain strains or species of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are over a hundred strains of HPV, but the two most commonly involved strains are HPV 16 and 18 which are the etiology of more than 70% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide. HPV is mostly transmitted though unprotected sexual intercourse. Infection can develop as soon as the virus shed to the infective site however not all infections could cause symptoms. Some may go undetected while others present with genital warts that is a potential source of development.
Apart from HPV, there are other factors that contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Having sex at a fairly young age and multiple sexual partners that could lead to different sexually transmitted infections are some factors. Persons with Human Immune deficiency Virus (HIV) are also noted to have 5-fold increased risk of getting this cancer.
Vaginal bleeding, more prominent after a sexual intercourse, is usually the early symptom of cervical cancer. There could also be pain during sexual intercourse, foul-smelling vaginal discharge and pain when voiding. Sometimes this cancer could also be asymptomatic and would be incidentally discovered through a routine Papanicolaou (Pap) test. The test is done by obtaining a sample tissue from the area where the cervix and the vagina meet. The sample obtained will then be examined under a microscope to note of any cell that is precancerous. In developed countries such as the US, there is a strict implementation of a yearly Papanicolaou (Pap) test for women of reproductive age. This has been proven effective in preventing the development of a full blown cervical cancer. This is because precancerous cells are excised and treated before they further develop into malignant cancer cells. This is also the reason why there is a steady decrease in number of patients in the US and other developed western countries. The same program is also being pushed forward in developing countries where this cancer remains to be a burden of government health sectors.
Management of a full blown cervical cancer depends on the stage where it was diagnosed. In early stages of the disease, surgery is the management of choice. However in cases diagnosed late and when cancer cells already spread to other parts of the body, radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy is being used.
The prognosis also depends on the stage of it. Basically, a 5-year survival rate of patients in earlier stages are better compared to the end-stage.