Cervical cancer is a kind of deadly disease in which abnormal cells grow in the tissues of the cervix. The cervix is the lower and narrow part of the womb where it joins with the top part of the vagina. Cervical cancer is disastrous; it remains a powerful killer even when it is within our reach to prevent it.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
The signs of this disease may not be so obvious but you have to look out for these signs. These signs can be similar to sexually transmitted infections which is why you should visit your doctor.
- Bleeding after intercourse
- uneasiness during sexual intercourse
- foul vagina discharge
- presence of blood in vagina discharge
- bleeding amidst periods
- pain around the pelvic region
The presence of highly developed cancer cells will bring about:
- Loss of appetite
- Intense vagina bleeding
- Outflow of urine or faeces from the vagina although, these occur in rare cases.
- Bleeding after a pelvic examination
- Loss of weight
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Cancer arises as a result of the development of uncontrolled abnormal cells. A large amount of human cells have a fixed lifespan and new cells are created to replace them when they die. Abnormal cells now occur when these old cells do not die but instead continue dividing which brings about increase in cells which at the long run forms a lump, relatively called a tumor.
There are factors that increase the chances of a woman developing a cervical cancer and they are:
- HPV: HPV is a virus which is sexually transmitted, it infects the cells of the cervix and causes cellular changes slowly.
There are about a hundred kind of HPV but about thirteen of them can lead to cervical cancer. In some cases, the human immune system can clear the virus which as a result, most women do not realize they have contracted this virus and do not suffer health consequences from it. Studies now depict that human papilloma virus can be transmitted from the mother in utero to the child.
Women are frequently infected with this virus in their adolescence, 20’s or 30’s despite the fact that the disease can take up to twenty years after the infection before the development of the disease commences.
- Multiple sexual partners: women who have a lot of sexual partners have a high risk of contracting human papilloma virus since it is transmitted sexually.
- Early sexual activities and childbearing: giving birth less than sixteen years of age increases the chances of developing cervical cancer which is the same for having sexual intercourse at an early age.
- Weakened immune system: low immunity such as in people affected with AIDS or those involved with organ transplant where drugs are prescribed to prevent the negative response to the new organ.
- Oral contraceptives: the continued use of some contraceptive pills can increase the chances of developing cervical cancer.
- The use of diethylstilbestrol in mothers to prevent miscarriage during pregnancy will increase the risk of contracting HPV in their children.
- Several pregnancies
Diagnosing cervical cancer earlier is the best and it can be diagnosed by the following:
HPV DNA testing which may include:
- Blood tests
- CT scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Pelvic ultrasound
- Endocervical cutterage
- Pap smear test: pap smear test have not been really effective in developing countries because majority of these countries have poor healthcare infrastructures, little experienced and qualified professionals to obtain and construe pap smear results and a prolonged time in obtaining results.
Treatment of Cervical Cancer
Treating cervical cancer will largely depend on the extent to which the cancerous cells have developed and access to qualified and experienced surgeons. The treatments for most stages include:
- Surgery: this is the removal of the tumor in the cervix during an operation. These procedures are often used for cancerous cells that have not spread further than the cervix.
- Hysterectomy: it can either be simple or radical, simple hysterectomy is the removal of both the womb and cervix while radical is removal of the cervix, womb and upper vagina.
- Salpingo-oophorectomy: this is the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Radical trachelectomy: this is the removal of the cervix that leaves the womb in one piece with pelvic lymph node dissection.
For cancerous cells that have spread beyond the cervix, a procedure called Exenteration will be carried out which involves the removal of the womb, vagina, rectum, lower colon or bladder.
- Chemotherapy: this is the use of drugs to annihilate cancer cells, this works by preventing the cancer cells from developing and multiplying.
- Radiation therapy: it is the use of energy x-rays or other particles to annihilate cancer cells.
Prevention of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer can be prevented through:
- HPV vaccines which ideally is to be given prior to sexual activities. It is normally given to women between the ages 9 and 26 as it is only useful before infection occurs.
- Protected sex by using condoms especially female ones. Condoms are helpful in treating precancerous changes in the cervix. Contact with semen enhances the risks of precancerous changes and the use of condoms causes these changes to degenerate thereby clearing HPV.
- Regular cervical screening (Pap smear) as it detects changes in cells of the cervix. Screening every 3-5 years within the ages 21-65 alongside adequate follow up will reduce the risks of cervical cancer.
Education, research and early detection are the primary and most efficient weapons that we have in the war against cervical cancer. Research is the key to finding a cure, education is awareness and early detection helps in saving lives.
Read also : Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom And Baby
However, educating women about cervical cancer will only increase the possibility of them going for screening as it is not as effective as inviting them for one.
Cervical cancer is real and deadly, it is essential we don’t joke with screenings.
About The Author
Akinyemi Mujeeb is a Prolific health blogger from Nigeria. He owns Commonphobias.net where he currently blogs about all types of phobia and how to cure them