What is cervical cancer?
The cervix is the part of a woman’s reproductive system that connects the vagina to the uterus. When there is an abnormal cancerous growth of tissue in the cervix, it is known as cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is most often found in women over the age of 30 years. It is the third most common cancer affecting women all over the world and one of the leading causes of death among women.
In the past few years, mass screening measures and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination have markedly decreased the chances of dying from cervical cancer.
How can you get cervical cancer?
You are at risk of getting cervical cancer if
- You have an HPV infection. Almost 99 percent of patients with cervical cancer have been linked to HPV infection. However, not all women with HPV infection develop cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs only when the HPV infection does not go away.
- You suffer from or have a history of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea make you prone to cervical cancer.
- You have been on oral contraceptive/birth control for a prolonged period.
- You have multiple sexual partners.
- Your immunity is weak. If you have an HIV infection that weakens your immunity system, it makes it hard to fight off cancer.
- You have given birth to more than two children.
- You are a smoker.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer in the early stages?
Cervical cancer is a slow progressing cancer, some of the early signs include
Signs and symptoms if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body include:
How will your doctor check if you have cervical cancer?
After taking your proper history, your doctor will examine you thoroughly.
- To check if you have cervical cancer, your doctor will ask you for a Pap test – done in the clinic or doctor’s office – in which
- The doctor scrapes a few cells of your cervix and sends it to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope for the presence of any abnormalities.
- If there are abnormal findings in the report, the doctor will order a biopsy wherein a small amount of tissue of your cervix may be removed surgically and sent to the laboratory for examination.
Other tests to detect cervical cancer are as follows:
- Colposcopy: Your doctor will insert a small instrument that works like a microscope into your vagina to look for any abnormal growth in the cervix. This is done at the gynecologist’s office.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): Your doctor will use an electrified wire to extract some tissue samples from your cervix. This procedure is carried out at the gynecologist’s office.
- Conization: Conization is the procedure that removes abnormal cells from the “Conus” part of the cervix. This procedure is done in the operating room where a small tissue sample is removed from the abnormal area in the cervix with the help of LEEP, scalpel, or a laser, and is sent for biopsy.
How is cervical cancer treated?
- Cervical cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery and radiation.
- Chemotherapy is reserved for patients in whom there is a suspicion that cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Biological or immunomodulatory therapy is given to those patients in whom all the above treatments have failed.
What is the life expectancy if you have cervical cancer?
There is a high chance that you will survive cervical cancer if you find and treat it in its early stage.
How long you will survive if cancer has spread to deeper tissue of the cervix and uterus will depend on the size of the cancerous tissue and stage of cervical cancer.
Research has found the chances of survival vary from patient to patient depending on the stage of cervical cancer:
- Stage 0: Nearly 90 percent chances of survival for at least 5 years after the diagnosis.
- Stage I: Between 80 and 93 percent chances of survival for at least 5 years after the diagnosis.
- Stage II: Between 58 and 63 percent chances of survival for at least 5 years after the diagnosis.
- Stage III: Between 32 and 35 chances of survival.
- Stage IV: As much as 16 percent or fewer women with stage IV cervical cancer survive for 5 years.
The survival rate for cervical cancer highlights the importance of women getting regular gynecological exams so they can treat the cancer as early as possible.
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Medically Reviewed on 6/26/2020