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Cancer / Oncology

Symptoms, causes, stages, and treatment of cervical cancer

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Cervical cancer damages the womb’s entrance. The cervix is the thin section of the lower uterus, often known as the womb’s neck.

According to the American Cancer Society, clinicians in the United States will make 13,170 new cervical cancer diagnosis by the end of 2019. Cervical cancer will claim the lives of more than 4,200 women in the United States this year.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of cervical cancer. HPV is successfully prevented by the HPV vaccine.

The vaccination was previously recommended for all people aged 9 to 26 years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vaccination is now accessible for all women and men aged 26–45 who had the vaccine as a preteen, according to the CDC.

We’ll look at cervical cancer, its symptoms, and how to avoid and treat it in this post.

Early warning signs and symptoms

bleeding after sexual intercourse

A person may have no symptoms at all in the early stages of cervical cancer.

As a result, women should undertake cervical smear examinations, often known as Pap tests, on a regular basis.

A Pap test is a preventative measure. Its goal is not to identify cancer, but to reveal any cell alterations that may signify the onset of cancer so that treatment can begin sooner.

The following are the most prevalent signs of cervical cancer:

  • vaginal discharge with a strong odor
  • bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • vaginal discharge tinged with blood
  • pelvic pain
  • bleeding between periods
  • bleeding in post-menopausal women
  • discomfort during sexual intercourse

Other causes, such as infection, can cause these symptoms. Anyone who exhibits any of these symptoms should consult a physician.

Stages

Identifying a cancer’s stage is important because it allows a person to choose the most effective treatment option.

The goal of staging is to determine how far the cancer has gone and whether it has migrated to surrounding structures or further away organs.

The most frequent technique to stage cervical cancer is using a four-step system.

Stage one: There are precancerous cells present.
Stage 1: Cancer cells have spread from the surface into the cervix’s deeper tissues, as well as into the uterus and adjacent lymph nodes.
Stage 2: The cancer has spread beyond the cervix and uterus, but not to the pelvic walls or the lower section of the vaginal canal. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes in the area.

Stage 3: Cancer cells can be found in the lower section of the vaginal canal or the pelvic walls, and they can obstruct the ureters, which convey urine from the bladder. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes in the area.

Stage 4: The cancer is growing out of the pelvis and damages the bladder or rectum. The lymph nodes may or may not be affected. It will extend to distant organs, including as the liver, bones, lungs, and lymph nodes, later in stage 4.

Screening and obtaining medical attention if any symptoms arise can assist a person in receiving early treatment and increasing their chances of survival.

Causes

The uncontrolled division and development of aberrant cells causes cancer. The majority of our body’s cells have a defined lifespan, and when they die, the body regenerates new cells to replace them.

There are two issues that abnormal cells can cause:

  • they do not die
  • they continue dividing

This causes an overabundance of cells to pile up, eventually forming a lump or tumour. Why cells turn malignant is a mystery to scientists.

Some risk factors, on the other hand, may raise the risk of cervical cancer. These are some of them:

  • HPV: This is a virus that is spread by sexual contact. There are about 100 different varieties of HPV, with at least 13 of them having the potential to cause cervical cancer.
    Having a lot of sexual partners or beginning sexually active young: Cancer-causing HPV kinds are almost always transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has HPV. HPV infection is more likely in women who have had a risk of sexual partners. This raises their chances of getting cervical cancer.
  • Smoking: Cervical cancer, as well as other types of cancer, is increased as a result of this.
  • A weakened immune system: Cervical cancer is more common among people who have HIV or AIDS, as well as those who have had a transplant and are using immunosuppressive medicines.
  • Birth control pills: Long-term usage of various common contraceptive pills boosts a woman’s risk by a small amount.
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases (STD): Cervical cancer is more likely in people who have chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or syphilis.
  • Socio-economic status: In locations where income is low, rates appear to be higher.

Treatment

Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments may be used to treat cervical cancer.

The type of treatment chosen is determined by a number of criteria, including the cancer’s stage, age, and overall health.

Early-stage cervical cancer treatment, while the cancer is still contained within the cervix, has a high success rate. The lower the success percentage, the further a cancer spreads from its original location.

Early-stage options

When the cancer has not gone beyond the cervix, surgery is a typical therapeutic option. If a doctor suspects cancer cells are present inside the body after surgery, radiation therapy may be beneficial.

Radiation therapy may potentially lower the chances of a recurrence (cancer coming back). Chemotherapy may be used if the surgeon wants to shrink the tumour to make it easier to operate on, albeit this is not a frequent technique.

Advanced cervical cancer treatment

Surgery is usually not an option when the cancer has progressed beyond the cervix.

Advanced cancer is also known as invasive cancer since it has spread to other parts of the body. This form of cancer necessitates a more intensive treatment regimen, which often includes radiation therapy or a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Palliative therapy is used by healthcare providers in the final stages of cancer to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is also known as radiation oncology or XRT by some clinicians.

It entails the use of high-energy X-rays or radiation beams to kill cancer cells.

When a treating doctor uses radiation to treat the pelvic area, the following adverse effects may cause, some of which may not appear until after the therapy is completed:

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy
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Chemotherapy is the treatment of any disease with chemicals (medicine). It refers to the killing of cancer cells in this context.

Chemotherapy is used by doctors to target cancer cells that surgery can’t or won’t eradicate, as well as to alleviate the symptoms of people with advanced cancer.

Chemotherapy has a wide range of adverse effects, which vary depending on the medicine. The following are some of the most common negative effects:

Cervical cancer clinical trials

For some people, taking part in a research study may be the greatest therapy option.

Clinical trials are an essential component of cancer research. Researchers use them to see if novel treatments are safe and effective, as well as whether they are superior than existing ones.

People who take part in clinical trials help to advance cancer research and development.

Prevention

Cervical cancer can be prevented by taking a variety of precautions.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

The association between cervical cancer and some forms of HPV is undeniable. Cervical cancer could be reduced if every female adhered to the current HPV immunisation programmes.

Cervical cancer and safe sex

Only two HPV strains are protected by the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer can be caused by other strains. Using a condom while having sex can help prevent HPV infection.

Cervical screening

Cervical screening may help a person detect and treat signs of cancer before the condition progresses or spreads too far. Screening does not identify cancer, but it does reveal alterations in the cervix’s cells.

Having fewer sexual partners

The greater a woman’s sexual partners, the greater her risk of transmitting the HPV virus. Cervical cancer is a risk as a result of this.

Delaying first sexual intercourse

The higher the risk of HPV infection, the younger a woman is when she has her first sexual encounter. The longer she waits, the lesser her risk becomes.

Stopping smoking

Cervical cancer is more likely to develop in women who smoke and have HPV than in those who do not.

Diagnosis

Early detection of cervical cancer boosts treatment success rates.

The American College of Surgeons recommends the following screenings as part of a routine examination:

Under the age of 25: The American College of Surgeons does not suggest screening.

Between the ages of 25 and 65: For cervical cancer prevention, people should get an HPV test every five years.

Over the age of 65: Unless individuals have a high risk of cervical cancer, the ACS does not suggest screening for those who have received adequate screening in the past.

People who have had a hysterectomy with the cervix removed do not need to be screened unless they had previously had precancerous lesions or cervical cancer.

These are the general screening recommendations, although each person’s screening needs should be discussed with a doctor.

Cervical smear test

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2019. Around 4,000 women will die as a result of the disease. Regular screening, on the other hand, could avert the majority of these deaths.

Screening does not identify cancer; instead, it searches for abnormal changes in cervix cells. Some aberrant cells can develop into cancer if they are not treated.

HPV DNA testing

This test determines if the person has any of the HPV varieties that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. It entails taking cells from the cervix for laboratory examination.

Before any abnormalities in the cervical cells become visible, the test can detect high-risk HPV strains in cell DNA.

A doctor may offer additional tests if there are signs and symptoms of cervical cancer or if the Pap test indicates abnormal cells.

These include:

  • Colposcopy: A speculum and a colposcope, a lighted magnifying device, are used to examine the vagina.
  • Examination under anaesthesia (EUA): The doctor will be able to inspect the vaginal and cervix in greater detail.
  • Biopsy: Under general anaesthesia, the doctor removes a little piece of tissue.
  • Cone biopsy: For evaluation, the doctor removes a tiny cone-shaped portion of aberrant tissue from the cervix.
  • LLETZ: Diathermy, which involves heating a wire loop with an electric current, aids in the removal of aberrant tissue. After that, the healthcare provider sends the tissue to a lab for analysis.
  • Blood tests: A blood cell count can aid in the detection of liver or kidney issues.
  • CT scan: A barium liquid may be used by a medical expert to reveal any cellular abnormalities.
  • MRI: Cervical cancer can be detected in its early stages using some types of MRI.
  • Ultrasound of the pelvis: On a monitor, high-frequency sound waves generate an image of the target region.

Outlook

The stage at which a person is diagnosed with cervical cancer can assist determine their odds of surviving for at least another 5 years:

  • Stage 1: The chances of surviving at least 5 years are 93 percent in early stage 1 and 80 percent in late stage 1.
  • Stage 2: Early in stage 2, the rate is 63 percent, but by the conclusion of stage 2, it has dropped to 58 percent.
  • Stage 3: The possibilities drop from 35 percent to 32 percent at this point.
  • Stage 4: Cervical cancer people at stage 4 have a 15 to 16 percent probability of living another 5 years.

These are average survival rates, which do not apply to all people. Treatment can be effective up to stage 4 in some situations.

Sources:

  • http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Cervical-Cancer-Screening
  • https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staged.html
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