Cervical cancer is a cancer that affects the entrance to the womb and is most common in women aged 30-45. It is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition, as early diagnosis is key in successful treatment.Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can increase the risk of developing this cancer, and it's important to get regular check-ups and screening tests.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after intercourse, or after menopause.
Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may be either watery or have a foul odor.
Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis.
Pain during intercourse.
Unusual menstrual patterns, such as unusually heavy or light periods.
Unexplained fatigue or general malaise.
DIAGNOSISDiagnosing cervical cancer involves a careful evaluation of the signs and symptoms of the condition. A variety of tests may be used to pinpoint a diagnosis, including a pelvic exam, Pap test, biopsy, imaging tests, and HPV test.
- Pelvic Exam: A pelvic exam is a routine physical exam for women, which can help identify physical signs of cervical cancer. During the exam, the doctor will examine the size, shape, and position of the uterus, ovaries, and surrounding areas.
- Pap Test: This test is used to identify abnormal cells in the cervix and upper vagina. In some cases, the test can detect cervical cancer in its early stages.
- Biopsy: During a biopsy, a sample of cells is removed from the cervix and sent to a lab for testing. This is the only definitive way to diagnose cervical cancer.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, help doctors view the organs within the pelvis. These tests can help doctors look for signs of cancer in the area.
- HPV Test: Human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer. An HPV test can detect the presence of the virus and help guide treatment.
TREATMENTThe Different Options When it comes to treating cervical cancer, several options are available. Depending on the stage of the cancer, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three may be recommended.
- Surgery: Surgery may be used to remove the cancerous tissue in the cervix, as well as any surrounding tissue. For early stage cervical cancer, a hysterectomy is often the recommended procedure. During a hysterectomy, the entire uterus is removed. If cancer has spread beyond the cervix, a radical hysterectomy may be necessary. This procedure involves removing the uterus, along with the upper portion of the vagina, the lymph nodes and other tissue.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy may be used to target and kill cancer cells. It can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation may be delivered internally (brachytherapy), from a machine outside the body (external beam radiation therapy), or both.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. It may be used in combination with radiation to treat advanced cervical cancer, or if cancer has spread beyond the cervix. It may also be used after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is a newer form of treatment that uses drugs specifically designed to target certain proteins or genes that are linked with the disease.
Coping with a diagnosis of cervical cancer can be overwhelming and difficult to process. After treatment, it's important to take the time to acknowledge the emotions you are feeling and find ways to cope with them.
Preventing cervical cancer is not as difficult as it may sound. Taking a few simple steps can help reduce your risk for cervical cancer.
1. Get the HPV vaccination: This vaccine is the most important step you can take to protect yourself against cervical cancer. It is recommended for people 11-26 years of age, and can help protect against the two types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancer cases.
2. Get regular Pap smears: Pap smears are tests that help detect changes in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Schedule regular screenings with your doctor and follow their instructions for getting tested.
3. Quit smoking: Smoking increases your risk for several different types of cancer, including cervical cancer. Make quitting smoking a priority to reduce your risk of cancer.
4. Practice safe sex: HPV is spread through sexual contact. Use condoms and practice safe sex to reduce your risk of HPV and decrease your chances of developing cervical cancer.
5. Eat a healthy diet: A diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help fight off cancer-causing agents. Make sure to get plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet to stay healthy.
6. Exercise regularly: Exercise helps strengthen your immune system, which helps fight off cancer-causing agents. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.