Cervix is the most sensitive part of the woman’s body. It is a hollow cylinder that serves as the connection between the uterus; the lower part of the womb and the vagina (birth canal). Cervix is lined by cells. Most of the cancer begins in the cells present over the surface of the cervix. Cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death in the past. At present, with the availability of the screening tests, the number has reduced considerably.
Exocervix: outer part of the cervix lined by the squamous cells.
Transformation zone: the zone where the endocervix and exocervix meet. Most of the cancerous changes start in this zone. The location of this zone tends to change with age.
3MEDS-anticancer medicine providers in India, briefs on cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer when spread deeper into the tissues, metastasize to different areas of the body such as vagina, lungs, liver, bladder. Cervical cancer does not produce any symptoms in the initial stages which makes it quite difficult to identify the disease. However, screening tests are widely used which helps in the early tracing of cervical cancer and reduces the mortality rate.
Squamous cell carcinoma: cancer arising in the squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma. This is the most common among cervical cancers. Usually occurs in the transformation zone.
Adenocarcinoma: cancer arising in the glandular cells is called adenocarcinoma. Glandular cells are the mucous producing cells of the cervix.
Mixed carcinoma: less common of cervical cancer. It possesses features of both the squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Cervical cancer is caused by sexually transmitted HPV (human papillomavirus). Different strains of this virus is also known to cause skin warts, genital warts, cancers involving vulva, vagina, tongue, tonsils, penis, rectum, and anus.
HPV-16 & HPV-18 are the two most common viral strain known for causing cervical cancer. Immunity plays a major role to fight against the HPV infection. Apart from this, HPV-31 & HPV-45 are responsible for 10% of cases of cervical cancer.
Risk factors such as having multiple sex partners, sex at the young age, prolonged intake of birth control pills, the one infected with STDs, smokers both active & passive, chlamydia, obesity, and weakened immunity.
Symptoms are not countered in the initial stages of cervical cancer. Symptoms are often pronounced at the later stages of cancer.
· Pain, during sexual intercourse
· Unusual vaginal discharge. Sometimes, during sex
· Unusual bleeding from the vagina, after sex vaginal bleeding, in between the periods, during the physical examination of the cervix, post-menopause.
· Pain in the pelvic region
· Discomfort in urination
· Kidney failure
· Swelling of legs
· Increased tendency to urinate
· Lack of appetite and weight loss
· Back pain
· Fracture of bone
· Leakage of feces or urine from the vagina in the extreme case
· Vaginal mass
Women of the age group 35-44 are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Hence, regular screening is must.
Pap smear is most commonly used to screen cervical cancer. However, it costs higher for most of the countries. Other tests such as biopsy help in confirming the lesion.
Staging of cervical cancer:
· Stage 1: cancer is spread to the lymph nodes and is smaller in size.
· Stage 2: cancer has spread beyond the uterus and cervix to the lymph nodes. No metastasis.
· Stage 3: cancer has spread to the lower part of the vagina and to the pelvis. No metastasis. May block ureters.
· Stage 4: cancer metastasize to different organs of the body like lungs, liver, and bone.
· Regular screening helps to identify cancer in the early stages, and thus, rendering prompt treatment. Screening is usually done with Pap (Papanicolaou) test.
· Use of barriers and spermicidal gel during intercourse.
· Vaccination against the HPV.
· Adequate nutrition such as consumption of vitamin A, vitamin B supplements which can be accessed through 3MEDS- best medicine app in India.
· Surgical intervention: hysterectomy, lymph node excision, loop electrical extension procedure, cone biopsy, trachelectomy.
· Radiotherapy: irradiation of the affected part in combination with other treatment regimes.
· Chemotherapy: chemotherapeutic drugs like cisplatin, hycamtin.
· Targeted therapy: newer drug-like Bevacizumab (Avastin) blocks the growth of new blood vessels and prevents cancer growth.
Cancer is dangerous irrespective of the location. It is capable of both morbidity and mortality of the individual. Therefore, do not ignore any unusual changes in your body. Consult your doctor immediately to get yourself tested. Maintain vaginal hygiene. Use barriers and stay safe. January is recognized as a cervical cancer awareness month.