Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common type of cancer that occurs in women. It occurs at the mouth of the uterus where it joins the vagina.
Women may experience localized symptoms or may have no symptoms at all — which makes it extremely important that you undergo routine testing by your gynecologist to ensure that you are cancer-free.
In the early stages, cervical cancer is highly treatable with an excellent survival rate.
Here’s what you need to know about cervical cancer — including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options…
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cancer is essentially a condition of uncontrolled growth of cells in a particular part of the body.
Cervical cancer is 100% treatable in its early stages, according to the National Institute of Health.
Causes of Cervical Cancer
A woman’s sexual habits can increase the likelihood of acquiring cervical cancer — because cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (or HPV), which is spread through sexual contact.
Women who are poor are also more likely to get cervical cancer, as well as women with weakened immune systems.
If you’ve received diethylstilbestrol (or DES), a medication used during the 1960s to prevent miscarriage, you are also more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer include bleeding between periods, as well as bleeding after intercourse or after menopause.
Another symptom is a pale, watery or foul-smelling discharge that occurs continuously.
Menstrual bleeding that is heavier than normal or more frequent than normal can also be a sign of cervical cancer.
If undiagnosed and untreated, cervical cancer can spread to the intestines, bladder, lungs or liver.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer can include back pain, bone pain, fractures, leaking of urine or feces from the vagina, pelvic pain, swollen legs, loss of appetite and weight loss.
How Cervical Cancer Is Diagnosed
The diagnosis of cervical cancer is generally done by Pap smear tests. These tests take a sample of cervical fluid and examine it under a microscope for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells.
The presence of precancerous cells will cause your physician to do further testing in order to evaluate whether treatment is necessary.
Based on these tests, your condition will be classified into one of 10 stages of cervical cancer.
Treatments For Cervical Cancer
These are some of the most common ways to treat cervical cancer:
- Laser surgery directs an intense beam of light to the cervical area to kill the cancerous cells.
- The Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (or LEEP) uses a metal wire loop through which an electrical current is passed to kill the cells.
- Cryosurgery uses freezing to kill the cancer cells.
- A simple hysterectomy removes the cervix and uterus in order to prevent the growth of the cancer cells.
- A radical hysterectomy removes these organs and more of the surrounding tissue. Other organs surrounding the cervix — such as the bladder, intestines, rectum or lymph nodes — may also need to be removed.
- Radiation therapy is often the most effective way to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs intravenously to kill the cancer cells.
Various combinations of these methods are often used to effectively treat cervical cancer.