Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix, the narrow passage that leads to the womb. Most of the time, its leading cause is HPV (human papilloma virus). It is a common type of virus that can be easily passed from person to person via sexual contact. It’s not uncommon for a woman with cervical cancer to experience no symptom during the early stages.
According to the experts, the disease affecting the cervix is said to be more common in sexually active women between 30 to 45 years old. It is very rare for a woman below 25 years of age to be afflicted with it. The staging of cervical cancer is done using the numbers 1 to 4, depending on how far the cancer has already spread to other areas.
Just like what’s mentioned earlier, symptoms only tend to occur when cervical cancer has already reached a more advanced stage. It is possible, however, for unusual bleeding to be experienced by the woman in between periods, after reaching menopause or after having sexual intercourse. Unusual bleeding is usually the fist noticeable sign of cervical cancer.
Another symptom of cervical cancer is discomfort and pain during sex. A woman may also notice vaginal discharge with an unpleasant smell. Because the cancer may spread from the cervix to the surrounding tissues and organs, there are many other possible symptoms. Some of them include loss of bladder control (incontinence), presence of blood in the urine (hematuria), constipation, bone pain, leg swelling, and unexplained weight loss and tiredness.
Sexually active women are at risk of having cervical cancer because, according to the experts, up to 99% of cervical cancer cases are due to HPV infection, something which can be obtained through sexual intercourse with a person afflicted by it. Having conditions such as CIN or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, orcervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN) may also put a woman at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Other risk factors include the intake of oral contraceptive for over 5 years, multiple births, cigarette smoking and having a compromised or weakened immune system.
Cervical cancer is staged according to how far the cancer has spread to other tissues or organs of the body. The numbers 1 to 4 are used by medical authorities to stage the disease. After cervical cancer has been identified, a woman’s likelihood of living for not less than 5 years is:
- Stage 1 – 80% to 99%
- Stage 2 – 60% to 90%
- Stage 3 – 30% 50%
- Stage 4 – 20%
The best possible treatment for cervical cancer is dependent on which stage it is in. If diagnosed during its early stage, it is possible for the disease to be treated with radiotherapy. Such can be done externally using a machine that emits energy waves to destroy cancer cells, or internally with the use of a radioactive device implanted in the vagina. Radiotherapy may also be used in conjunction with surgery for cervical cancer that is still in its early stage.
Surgery is often warranted when the disease has reached an advanced stage. During surgery, the affected areas may be removed to prevent cancerous cells from spreading to the adjacent tissues and organs. Surgery may entail the removal of the cervix and the upper part of the vagina (radical trachelectomy), cervix and womb (hysterectomy), or the cervix, womb, ovaries, fallopian tube, vagina, bladder and rectum (pelvic exenteration).