What to do if you have cervical cancer? Precautions, diagnosis and treatment

The Hush Post|11:19 pm |one-minute-read

Good health is one of the most important and needful things in life. There is an adage “health is wealth” which is a truth nobody can deny. A healthy body and a sound mind is way better than an unhealthy body with all the luxuries of life. Many of us don’t even know about some health issues which are very common but can have deadly effects on our body. One such health issue is cervical cancer. This disease is very common amongst women but they don’t get to know about it. The major reason being lack of awareness and knowledge.

Dr Sandhya Sood, senior radiation oncologist, American Oncology Institute, Ludhiana, explains everything about cervical cancer. She answers every question regarding the disease.

What is cervical cancer?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer is defined as a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India among women which accounts for 22.86 per cent of all cancer cases in women. The number of new cases registered in 2018 of cervical cancer is more than 96,000 and the number of deaths is 60,000. It mostly occurs in women aged between 15 and 44.

What causes cervical cancer?

It is not clear what causes cervical cancer, but according to the doctors and scientists most cervical cancers are caused by the strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

What are the cervical cancer signs & symptoms?

Cervical cancer doesn’t show any signs or symptoms during the early stage, but you can see the symptoms during the more-advanced stage such as:

  • Watery or bloody vaginal discharge with a foul odour
  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
What are the different types of cervical cancer?

There are two major types of cervical cancer:

Squamous cell carcinoma: This cancer begins in the thin, flat cells, lining the outer part of the cervix which projects into the vagina. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

Adenocarcinoma: This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.

What risk factors are associated with cervical cancer?

The several risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • The greater the number of sexual partners, the greater the chance of acquiring HPV
  • Having sex at an early age increases the risk of HPV
  • Smoking results in squamous cell cervical cancer
What are the precautions which need to be taken to prevent cervical cancer?

There are different options to reduce the risk of cervical cancer such as:

  • Vaccination is available for girls and women of age 9 to 26. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls above nine years of age with a shot of two doses that protect them against the infection.
  • The state government of Punjab has decided to include the HPV vaccine in the state immunisation programme in Bhatinda and Mansa districts.
  • Have routine Pap tests as it can detect pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix and can be monitored or treated to prevent cervical cancer.
  • Use condom, have fewer sexual partners and delay intercourse to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Don’t smoke.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?

Cervical cancer is treated successfully if detected early. Women begin screening for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous changes at age 21.

The screen test for cervical cancer include:

Pap test: In this test, the doctor scrapes cells from the cervix which are then examined in a lab for abnormalities.

HPV DNA Test: This test involves testing cells collected from the cervix. This test is an option for women age 30 and older or younger women with an abnormal pap test.

If a doctor suspects cervical cancer, then he starts a thorough examination of the cervix which is done using an instrument called colposcope. The tissue is obtained by the following methods:

Punch biopsy: It involves using a sharp tool to pinch off small samples of cervical tissue.

Endocervical Curettage: It involves using a small, spoon-shaped instrument to scrap a tissue sample from the cervix.

Electrical wire loop: It involves the use of a thin, low-voltage electrical wire to obtain a small tissue sample.

Cone Biopsy: In this procedure, the doctor obtains deeper layers of cervical cells for testing using anesthesia.

When it is confirmed that you have cervical cancer, then the doctor performs more tests to determine the stage of cancer. The stages of cervical cancer are:

Stage 1: Cancer is confined to the cervix.

Stage 2: It is present in the cervix and upper portion of the vagina.

Stage 3: It has moved to the lower portion of the vagina or to the pelvic side wall.

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to nearby organs, such as a bladder or rectum.

What is the treatment for cervical cancer?

Treatment for cervical cancer depends on many factors such as stages of cancer and other health problems. The treatment involves:

Surgery: Surgery called as hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) can treat the cervical cancer at early stage. Hysterectomy is of two types:

  • Simple Hysterectomy: In this, the cervix and uterus are removed along with cancer.
  • Radical Hysterectomy: In this, the cervix, uterus, part of the vagina and lymph nodes in the area with cancer are removed.

Radiation: It uses high-powered energy beams such as X-rays or protons to kill cancer cells. It can be given externally by directing a radiation beam at the affected area of the body or internally by placing a device filled with radioactive material inside the vagina only for a few minutes.

Chemotherapy: Medicines are injected into the body to kill cancer cells.

What is the need for awareness about cervical cancer?

A lack of knowledge of cervical cancer and the pap smear test is the main reason for increased rate of cervical cancer in North India. Earlier, many women did not have a clear understanding of the meaning of an abnormal cervical smear and the need for the early detection of cervical cancer.

HPV prevalence among cervical cancer patients in India has varied from 87.8 per cent to 96.67 per cent. In Himachal Pradesh, cervical cancer stands as the number one female cancer for the last ten years.

Therefore it is important to make people aware of cervical cancer and the purpose of pap smear screening in North India.

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