About Cervical Cancer

Cancer arises when the cells in a particular area of the body begin growing and multiplying uncontrollably. Cervical cancer starts in a woman’s cervix (the opening between the vagina and uterus). It is the fourth most common type of cancer in women worldwide and the 14th most common in the United Kingdom, with around 3200 cervical cancer cases reported in the country each year. Over 99% of cervical cancer cases occur due to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection (a sexually-transmitted infection). Though all women are at risk for cervical cancer is more common in women between 35 and 44 years. There are many effective cervical cancer treatment options available today, but taking a comprehensive approach to creating awareness, screening, and encouraging women to take the precautionary HPV vaccine can help reduce the number of cervical cancer cases. The five-year survival rate or cervical cancer life expectancy after five years of diagnosis is 92% for localised cases and 58% for cervical cancers that have spread to the nearby regions.

Symptoms

Cervical cancer grows slowly and rarely shows any symptoms in the initial stages. Due to this, many women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the advanced stages. Some common symptoms of cervical cancer are:

 

  • Unexpected bleeding from the vagina or bleeding between periods
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, sometimes with a strong odour
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the lower back region, the lower part of the abdomen or pelvis

 

If you experience any unusual bleeding from the vagina, you must consult your doctor immediately. Many people find it embarrassing to talk about such details, but these symptoms must be reported immediately.

Diagnosis

The most successful cervical cancer screening test is the cervical smear or the Pap smear test. Women between 25 to 65 years of age must undergo a Pap smear test once every five years. Diagnostic tests enable your doctor and healthcare team to determine how to treat cervical cancer. If your doctor detects an abnormality in your Pap smear, they may recommend further

tests to confirm their diagnosis, which includes:

 

  • Colposcopy (used to visually examine the vagina and cervix using a

colposcope)

  • Imaging tests like CT scan, PET scan or an MRI
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Examination under Anaesthesia (EUA)
  • Biopsy (performed under general anaesthesia)
  • Cone biopsy: A type of biopsy during which the doctor takes a cone-shaped section of the abnormal tissue for examination

Treatment

Cervical cancer treatment options primarily include– surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. While most people associate chemotherapy and cervical cancer when talking of treatment of this condition, your treatment plan will depend upon the stage of your cancer, age, and overall health. Treating early-stage cervical cancer has a higher success rate as they are localised. These cancers are usually treated by surgery. Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy if they feel some cancer cells may be left out. 

 

Only surgery is not enough in stage 3 and stage 4 cervical cancer. They usually require a combination of treatment options. In the advanced stages of the disease, treatment options may not be aimed at curing the condition but to limit the cancer spread and relieve your symptoms.

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