Cervical Cancer: Understanding the Dangerous Disease and Its Prevention

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Introduction:

Cervical Cancer: It refers to a cancerous disease that affects the part of the uterus near the vagina, which is known as the lower part of the uterus. It is one of the most prevalent kinds of cancer in women, with over 500,000 new cases and 300,000 fatalities recorded globally each year.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to a cervix’s aberrant cell development, is the leading cause of this cancer. Because there is a lack of awareness and access to screening and treatment, even though the illness is largely preventable and treatable, many women still pass away from this cancer. We’ll talk about the causes, signs, symptoms, prognosis, therapy, and prevention of this cancer in this post.

What Causes of this Cancer?

As mentioned earlier, cervical cancer is primarily caused by HPV, a common virus spread through sexual contact. There are over 100 different types of HPV, and some types can cause abnormal cell growth in the cervix, which can eventually lead to cancer. Some of the risk factors for this cancer are as follows:

  • Smoking: Smoking increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer by two times compared to non-smoking women.
  • Weak Immune System: Cervical cancer and HPV are more likely to affect women whose immune systems are compromised, such as those who have HIV.
  • Family History: It is more likely to affect women who have a family history of the disease.

What are its Symptoms?

It may not cause any symptoms in the early stages. As cancer progresses, however, women may experience the following:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain

It is necessary to see your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the symptoms. Early detection and treatment of cervical cancer can increase the chances of survival.

cervical cancer

What are the stages of cervical cancer?

It can be classified into different stages based on the extent to of the cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body. The stages are listed below:

Stage 0: Cancer in situ is another name for this stage. The cervix’s surface layer is the sole place where malignant cells are found.

Stage I: In this stage, cancer has penetrated the cervix’s deeper tissues in addition to its surface, but it has not yet spread to other bodily regions.

Stage II: At this point, cancer has migrated into the tissues around the cervix, including the upper vagina. But neither the pelvic wall nor other organs have been affected.

Stage III: The ureters, which are the tubes that join the kidneys and bladder, may be blocked at this stage because the cancer has progressed to the pelvic wall.

Stage IV: This stage of cervical cancer is the most advanced. At this point, cancer has gone to the bladder or rectum in addition to the pelvic region.

The stages of this cancer are determined by a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy results. The stage of cancer plays a crucial role in deciding the best course of treatment for the patient.

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How is Cervical Cancer Diagnosed?

Usually, a Pap test sometimes referred to as a Pap smear, is used to diagnose this cancer. Your doctor will take cells from your cervix during a Pap test and send them to a lab for examination. Your doctor could suggest more testing, like colposcopy or biopsy if abnormal cells are discovered to confirm the diagnosis.

How is Cervical Cancer Treated?

The treatment for this cancer depends on the stage of the disease and other factors, such as age and overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: In this procedure, the cancerous tissue is removed from the cervix or the entire uterus.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy kills cancer cells using high-energy beams.
  • Chemotherapy: Using drugs to kill cancerous cells.

A doctor may advise a combination of these treatments in some cases.

How can it be Prevented?

It is highly preventable through early detection and lifestyle changes. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer:

  • Get Regular Pap Tests: Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should get a Pap test every three years, or every five years if they also get an HPV test.
  • Get Vaccinated: The HPV vaccine offers defense against the strains of HPV that account for the majority of cervical cancer incidences. Although it can be administered up to age 26, the vaccine is advised for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12.
  • Practice Safe Sex: Protect yourself from HPV infection by using condoms and limiting your sexual partners.
  • Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of cervical cancer as well as other types of cancer and diseases.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help boost your immune system and reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Who is vulnerable to it?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is primarily responsible for cervical cancer, which is an infection transmitted sexually. Certain factors can increase a person’s risk of developing cervix cancer, including:

  1. HPV infection: HPV infection is the most significant risk factor for cervical cancer. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and some types are more likely to cause cervical cancer than others.
  2. Early sexual activity: Engaging in sexual activity at a young age increases the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
  3. Multiple sexual partners: Having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
  4. Weakened immune system: A weakened immune system, which can result from conditions such as HIV/AIDS or from certain medications, increases the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
  5. Smoking: Smoking damages the DNA of cervical cells, which can lead to the development of cancer.
  6. Family history: Women are more vulnerable if there is a family history of cervical cancer.

It is important to note that anyone who has a cervix can develop cervical cancer, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. However, it is more common in women. Regular screenings can help detect cancer early when it is most treatable.

Conclusion

It has affected millions of women globally and is a devastating but largely avoidable disease. You can improve your odds of survival by detecting cancer early and undergoing routine Pap tests, as well as by taking proactive measures to lower your risk of HPV infection. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as giving up smoking, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise, can help lower the risk of developing cervical cancer and other cancers and disorders. Please remember to discuss any worries or inquiries you may have regarding cervical cancer or other health issues with your healthcare professional.

FAQs

Can cervical cancer be cured?

It can be treated and cured, especially when detected early. However, the chances of survival depend on the stage of the disease, age, and overall health.

Is cervical cancer hereditary?

While having a family history of cervix cancer can increase the risk of developing the disease, this cancer is not directly hereditary.

Can men get cervical cancer?

No, men cannot get this cancer since they do not have a cervix. However, men can get other types of HPV-related cancers, such as anal, penile, and throat cancers.

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