Cervical Cancer – 5 Important Facts You Need to Know About This Disease
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer which occurs on the cervix of a woman. It usually progresses slowly until it becomes an invasive cancer. An invasive cancer means that the cancer cells can spread to other parts. In the case of cervical cancer, the cancer cells will affect the vagina, rectum, bladder, lungs and liver. This kind of cancer can be treated when caught in its early stage.
1) Causes and Risk Factors
Some of the risk factors for cervical cancer include previous infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), multiple sexual partners, taking oral contraceptives, early sexual contact and cigarette smoking. There have been studies done which establishes a strong link between HPV and the development of cancer in the cervix. Early sexual contact and multiple sexual partners contribute to the development of cancer because HPV is transmitted sexually. Cigarette smoking is also a risk factor because the chemicals in the cigarette can cause precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix.
2) Signs and Symptoms
Many of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer are often neglected because many women think that they are related to other illnesses. This form of cancer can also be asymptomatic, which means that it does not manifest any signs and symptoms in its early stage. The cervical cancer symptoms to watch out for include unusual heavy discharge and abnormal bleeding. The discharges are usually foul-smelling, thick and watery. Pain during urination is also another symptom but this usually occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Pelvic pain which can be mild or severe is another symptom. Other signs and symptoms to watch out for are bleeding after sexual intercourse and bleeding in between regular menstrual period.
Cervical cancer diagnosis in its early stage is very important for a successful treatment of the cancer. One of the most essential diagnosis method used to detect this cancer is the Papanicolaou test also known as Pap Smear. Other diagnostic procedures include cervical biopsy, colposcopy (examination of the cervix with the use of a specialized microscope) and x-ray.
Cervical cancer treatment as mentioned above has a high percentage of success when the cancer is detected in its precancerous stage. Hysterectomy or removal of the uterus is the common treatment. A cone biopsy is also an option especially for those who want to remain fertile. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also done together with other treatments.
Cervical cancer can be prevented. One preventive measure women should do is to get a regular pap smear. Since the introduction of Pap smear, the occurrence of cancer of the cervix has significantly decreased. Pap smear is available in most cancer clinics and hospitals. If your Pap smear result is abnormal, you should follow-up to ensure that you do not have cancer. Since smoking is one of the risk factors of cervical cancer, women should not smoke and avoid secondhand smoking. Safe sex is also very important in the prevention of this cancer. Sexually active women should always ask their partner to use a condom. In addition, limit your sexual partners. This does not only prevent cervical cancer but other sexually transmitted diseases as well. HPV vaccines are also available these days which is given to women who are 27 years old or below.