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Cervical Cancer Causes, Stages, Symptoms, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Vaccination, and Screening

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a slow progressing cancer that develops and grows in the tissue around the cervix. Basically, the cervix is the area of the female reproductive system that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical cancer is considered to be the second most common cancer for women worldwide. In the United States alone approximately 12,200 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and out of that 4,210 died in 2010. Out of this population around 58% of women were between 45 to 74 years old. Based on several studies the five year survival rate for cervical cancer between the years 1999 to 2006 was 70%. Improved outcomes for cervical cancer can be seen due to the latest vaccines and new early screening tests.

cervix location

Cervix Anatomy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cervical Cancer Stages and Types

The staging of cervical cancer is based on several factors, like severity of the disease and involvement of adjacent and distant organs of the body. Based of them the cervical cancers are categorized into the following stages,

  • Stage 0 – cervical cancer limited to the superficial layer of cervix
  • Stage 1 – cervical cancer involving and limited to cervix
  • Stage 2 – cervical cancer involving adjacent pelvic organs but limited to the pelvis
  • Stage 3 – cervical cancer involving kidneys and/or other abdominal organs
  • Stage 4 – cervical cancer involving rectum and urinary bladder with distant metastasis

Based on the cell type, cervical cancer is categorized into two main types which are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Out of the two, the most common type is squamous cell carcinoma that occurs in about 80% – 90% of all cervical cancer cases. The cancer develops from squamous cell that are flat thin cells lining the surface of the endocervix or the area of the cervix connected to the uterus. The other type of cervical cancer which is adenocarcinoma usually develops in younger women. This type of cancer develops in the gland cells located within the endocervix.

Cervical Cancer Causes

Even though there has been countless of studies on cervical cancer, experts are not entirely certain on how exactly cervical cancer develops. Although, these studies have succeeded in identifying various risk factors that may trigger cervical cancer. The main risk factors for cervical cancer are connected to sexually transmitted diseases especially viruses such as various types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Also, Chlamydia, which is transmitted through sexual intercourse, is also a risk factor to develop cervical cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include multiple pregnancies, long term use of oral contraceptives, obesity, imbalanced diet, and smoking. Plus, a history of cervical cancer in the family can increase the risk of cervical cancer drastically.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms and Signs

During the early stages of cervical cancer the patient may be asymptomatic or shows minimal symptoms. Unfortunately, it is not until the later stages of cervical cancer that the signs and symptoms become quite noticeable. Basically, the most common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge mixed with bloody spots. Also, there may be an increased volume of menstruation blood loss and even bleeding during or after sexual intercourse. Pain may also be felt during sexual intercourse, which is called dyspareunia. In the later stages of cervical cancer, general pelvic pain can be felt during pelvic movements.

Cervical Cancer Diagnosis

The diagnosis of cervical cancer goes through several steps. First of all, the physician will do a completely take the history of the patient, including family history of illness. Then the physician will do a physical examination of the patient’s reproductive organs. In order to identify the progression of the cervical cancer the physician may use an instrument called a cystoscope to examine the cervix. Also, the physician may inspect the anal cavity using a proctoscope.

Cervical Cancer MRI

Cervical Cancer on MRI

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Next the physician may order imaging examinations such as x – rays, computed tomography scans (CT – Scans), positron emission tomography scans (PET scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and even intravenous urography. In most cases the physician will perform a PAP smear and also a biopsy. These examinations are performed to diagnose cervical cancer and eventually the specific stage of the cancer.

Cervical Cancer Treatment

Basically, the treatment depends entirely on the stage and progression of cervical cancer. Overall, the standard of treatment consists of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Surgical intervention for cervical cancer can be minimally invasive during the early stages but can also be much radical for the advanced stages. In the early stages of this cancer, the physician may remove a small portion of the cervix to prevent progression but in the advanced stages the physician may even perform a total hysterectomy or the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Also, radiotherapy may be used to eliminate the cancerous cells with rays of radiation. Radiotherapy can be implemented on its own or in combination with other forms treatments. Also, chemotherapy is often ordered to destroy cancerous cells and/or to prevent these cells from spreading and multiplying throughout the body. Chemotherapeutic agents can be administered orally or even injected intravenously depending on the type of medication. It is important to know that all forms of cancer treatments may cause adverse effects. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy not only destroys cancerous cells but it may affect healthy cells as well.

Cervical Cancer Prevention

Like any other type of disease, cervical cancer may be prevented with alterations to the various risk factors connected to the disease. At times, this might mean drastic changes in habits and even lifestyle. These changes include abstinence or avoiding premarital sex but if this is not possible then it is recommended to limit the number of sexual partners. If you do have an active sex life, it is advised to avoid sexual intercourse with promiscuous partners. Drastic changes lifestyle changes must also be implemented to prevent cervical cancer or any type of cancer for that matter. If you are a chronic smoker it is highly recommended to quit smoking. Also, it is important to have a healthy and well balanced diet by consuming more fruits and vegetables. For those of you that are overweight it is important to shed off that weight by eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Cervical Cancer Vaccination

Another method to prevent cervical cancer is to receive a vaccination. Women may consider to get vaccinated with Gardasil which is a new vaccine targeting HPV viruses 6, 11, 16, and 18. Based on various studies, these HPV viruses can trigger cervical cancer. It is important to know that these vaccines only prevent HPV infection and it can’t be used to treat current HPV infections. The Gardasil vaccination requires three injections over a period of six month. Women must understand that Gardasil only prevents the four types of HPV mentioned above and doesn’t prevent other types of HPV.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Screening of individuals for cervical cancer is difficult due to the venereal nature of the disease. However, it is highly important for early diagnosis of cervical cancer, so that treatment measures can be instituted at an earlier stage. So, if you have the signs and symptoms mentioned above plus you have the risk factors for cervical cancer, it is important to consult a physician as soon as possible. As with any other type of cancer, cervical cancer has a higher five year survival rate if treated at an earlier stage.


Posted by in Diseases and Conditions, Women's Health

7 Responses to “Cervical Cancer Causes, Stages, Symptoms, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Vaccination, and Screening”

  1. Enter Name says:

    Wow, a lot of misinformation and missing information here. Married women can contract HPV (a major cause of cervical cancer) from their husbands. People can use condoms to reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. And most importantly (and incorrectly stated in the article), it’s EASY to screen or cervical cancer – it’s called a Pap smear! Use it!

    • igauresh says:

      It is not entirely incorrect. Kindly refer back to the context of the statement and you will better understand is that even though the test is easy to perform, but not many women come ahead and get the test done. This is mainly because a woman with fear to have cervical cancer is also under the impression of being labeled for promiscuity. So its a quite tricky issue.

  2. Enter Name says:

    Why are Pap tests not even mentioned in this article? When a woman becomes sexually active (married or not), she should start getting Pap tests. The test is easy, inexpensive, and has decreased the death rate from cervical cancer dramatically. Cervical cancer used to be a leading killer of women until this test came out. The test can detect abnormal cells long before they turn into cancer, so you can get treatment before it turns into cancer.

    • igauresh says:

      Pap tests are the routine procedure in gynaecology department and so it need not be stressed upon. It is clear that pap test or smear does help in diagnosis but its value in screening is being investigated.

  3. this is very informative. Thank you so much for its available info.

  4. Owen Woods says:

    Hello,

    I am a medical doctor and I find the following sentence from your article an abomination:

    “These changes include abstinence or avoiding premarital sex but if this is not possible then it is recommended to limit the number of sexual partners.”

    If you want to write an article on a medical subject, keep your personal and religious beliefs out of it. This reads like an article from the 19th century. If ind it hard to believe your editor left it as is.

    • igauresh says:

      Its so hard to believe you are a medical doctor if you do not have basic knowledge about cervical cancer. Just refers to the inferior quality of your teaching and learning. The fact that you seem to underline is not a religious or personal belief but a confirmed fact. Read the first line from the reliable link below and brush up with your knowledge, at least for the sake of your poor patients, who seem to believe you !

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9222772

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