The cervix is located at the end of the uterus in women. The opening of the cervix leads to the upper part of the vagina. Cancer can affect many parts of the body including the tissues which make up the cervix. It can grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body. Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women and over 11,000 new cases are identified in the US each year on the average. As with virtually every other kind of cancer, identification and treatment of the disease in the earliest stages provides the best chance of full recovery. So we’ll discuss cervical cancer and its symptoms and treatment in more detail here.
Cervical cancer normally begins when cancer cells form and grow within the cervix. It tends to affects women who are between 40 and 55 years of age. No one is quite sure what causes cervical cancer but several factors seem to increase the risk of developing this disease. These include having a previous viral infection; having multiple sex partners; use of oral contraceptives; and use of tobacco. Other factors which can increase the risk of developing the disease include contracting sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, or HIV. A weak immune system can also play an important role.
This disease can be very life threatening since there may not be much noticeable symptoms until the cancer has progressed to severe levels. But if one pays particular attention to the following symptoms, it may be possible to detect the cancer earlier in the cycle. So be alert for these changes:
- Pain in the pelvic area during intercourse
- Unusual vaginal bleeding between periods
- Vaginal odor and discharge
- Menstrual periods which are longer and heavier than usual
- Unusual vaginal bleeding after menopause
Any of these symptoms should be investigated further. But one of the best ways to detect cervical cancer in its early stages is to receive a Pap smear test regularly. Any type of test which can be used in an HPV screening test to detect the presence of the HPV virus. If the presence of cancer is indicated by these tests, further tests like a colposcopy, biopsy or cone biopsy are performed to investigate the tissues and determine the presence of cancer cells.
If the cervical cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, treatment is focused on removing as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. Treatments can include a cone biopsy, laser surgery, cryosurgery, or a hysterectomy. In most cases no additional treatment is required.
However if the cancer has become more widespread, surgical procedures like a hysterectomy may be followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill as many remaining cancer cells as possible. If the cancer has become very widespread and has invaded other organs, it becomes much more difficult to treat this cancer effectively. Treatments would then be focused on controlling the growth of the cancer throughout the body and extending the patient’s life as long as possible. This is why it is so vital to seek regular screening tests to diagnose the presence of the disease in its earliest stages. In this way the patient can achieve a full recovery versus a much more significant and threatening situation.