Early signs of Cervical Cancer and prevention

Early signs of Cervical Cancer and prevention

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The mere mention of cancer as a disease sends shivers down the spines of most people. Just about any average person does not want cancer to come up in ordinary conversation. Human beings are afflicted by different forms of cancer, which can lead to death if not detected early and properly managed.

One of such cancers is cervical cancer, which is a disease condition seen in women. Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop and spread in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. A unique fact about cervical cancer is that most cases are triggered by a type of virus. When found early, cervical cancer is highly curable.

When cervical cells first become abnormal, there are rarely any warning signs. As the cancer progresses, symptoms may include: unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods,

bleeding after menopause and bleeding or pain during sex

HPV, top cause of cervical cancer

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a large group of viruses. About 40 types can infect the genital areas, and some have high risk for cervical cancer. Genital HPV infections usually clear up on their own. If one becomes chronic, it can cause changes in the cells of the cervix. And it is these changes that may lead to cancer. Worldwide, over 90 per cent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection.

Symptoms of HPV

HPV infections usually have no symptoms and go away on their own. Some types of the HPV virus may cause genital warts, but these are not the same strains linked to cervical cancer. It’s important to note that genital warts will not turn into cancer, even if they are not treated. The dangerous types of HPV can stay in the body for years without causing any symptoms.

Who Is at risk for HPV?

HPV is so common that most people who have ever had sex, both women and men, will get the virus at some point in life. Because HPV can linger quietly, it’s possible to carry the infection even if it has been years since you had sex. Condoms can lower your risk of getting HPV, but they do not fully protect against the virus. HPV is also linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, and to anal and oral cancers in both sexes.

How HPV causes cervical cancer

If one of the high-risk strains of HPV lingers in the body, it can cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix. These precancerous changes do not mean that you have cervical cancer. But over time, the abnormal cells may give way to cancer cells. Once cancer appears, it tends to spread in the cervix and surrounding areas.

Generally, a number of factors can raise the risk factor. Africans and people of African descent as well as Hispanics have a higher rates of cervical cancer than white women. The risk is also higher in infected women who: smoke, have many children, use birth control pills for a long time, are HIV positive or have weakened immune system or have multiple sexual partners.

All-hope not lost

As noted earlier, early detection is very important in successfully treating cervical cancer. A key way of doing this is the PAP smear test. A swab of the cervix can reveal abnormal cells, often before cancer appears. At age 21, women should start having a Pap test every three years. From age 30 to 65, women who get both a Pap test and an HPV test can go up to five years between testing. But women at higher risk may need testing more often, so it’s best to check with your doctor who will help you know what the best testing schedule is for you. Skipping tests raises your risk for invasive cervical cancer.

What if your Pap test is abnormal?

If test results show a minor abnormality, you may need a repeat Pap test. Your doctor may schedule a colposcopy, an exam with a lighted magnifying device, to get a better look at any changes in the cervical tissue and also take a sample to be examined under a microscope. If abnormal cells are precancerous, they can then be removed or destroyed. Treatments are highly successful in preventing precancerous cells from developing into cancer.

Early detection: HPV DNA test

In some cases, doctors may offer the option of the HPV DNA test in addition to a Pap test. This test checks for the presence of high-risk forms of HPV. It may be used in combination with a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in women over 30. It may also be recommended for a woman of any age after an abnormal Pap test result.

Diagnosing cervical cancer

This involves having a biopsy, in which a small portion of cervical tissue is removed for examination in a lab. A pathologist will check the tissue sample for abnormal changes, precancerous cells, and cancer cells. In most cases, a biopsy takes place in a doctor’s office during a colposcopy. A cone biopsy allows the pathologist to check for abnormal cells beneath the surface of the cervix, but this test may require anaesthesia.

Stages of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is divided into four stages. In stage I, the cancer is beyond the lining of the cervix, but it’s still only in your uterus. Stage II means it’s spread beyond your cervix and uterus. At this stage, it can also spread to nearby tissues. A stage III tumor reaches the lower part of your vagina and may make it hard to pee. Stage IV, the most advanced, means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, like nearby organs.

Surgical treatment

If the cancer has not progressed past Stage II, surgery is usually recommended to remove any tissue that might contain cancer. Surgical treatment options vary from cervical conization to simple hysterectomy to radical hysterectomy. A radical hysterectomy includes, the removal of the cervix and uterus as well as some of the surrounding tissue. The surgeon may also remove the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and lymph nodes near the tumor.

Radiation therapy

External radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells in a targeted area. It can also help destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery. Internal radiation, or brachytherapy, uses radioactive material that is inserted into the tumor. Women with cervical cancer are often treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. Side effects can include low blood cell counts, feeling tired, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and loose stools.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to reach cancer wherever it is in the body. When cervical cancer has spread to distant organs, chemotherapy may be the main treatment option. Depending on the specific drugs and dosages, side effects may include fatigue, bruising easily, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.


This treatment unleashes your own immune system to spot and kill cancer cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block molecules on immune cells that help tumors evade detection. Once the cancer cells are unmasked, your body’s disease-fighting T cells attack the growth.

Coping with cancer treatments

Cancer treatments may make you tired or uninterested in food. But it’s important to take in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. Check with a dietitian for tips on eating well during cancer treatment. Staying active is also important. Gentle exercise can increase your energy while reducing nausea and stress. Check with your doctor to find out which activities are appropriate for you.



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