Cervical Cancer

Know Cervical Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Stages, Screening

What is Cervical Cancer

If you feel any pain or problem in the lower part and want to know What it is Cervical Cancer, cervical cancer is a cancer of the cells lining the cervix. cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer after breast cancer among women in India,  but the number of deaths is much more. Every 7 minutes, one woman in India dies due to cervical cancer. We have more than 200 women dying every day and more than 100,000 new cases are diagnosed yearly.

What are the 4 Stages of Cervical Cancer?

What are the 4 Stages of Cervical Cancer? A 4-stage system is the most common way to stage cervical cancer.

  • Stage 0: Precancerous cells are present.
  • Stage 1: Cancer is confined to the cervix.
  • Stage 2: Cancer at this stage includes the cervix and uterus but does not involve the pelvic wall or the lower portion of the vagina.
  • Stage 3: Cancer at this stage involves and uterus to the pelvic wall or the lower portion of the vagina.
  • Stage 4: At this stage, cancer has spread to other organs, such as the bladder or rectum, or it has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or bones

Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

In the early stages of cervical cancer, a person may experience no symptoms at all. Some common symptoms of cervical cancer:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, pelvic examination
  • Menstrual periods last for more days (longer) and are heavier than before
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain/ consistent lower back pain

What are the Causes of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases. Usually, HPV gets cleared from our body by itself, but it remains persistent and can cause abnormal changes in cells that lead to cervical cancer. There are some risk factors that might increase the risk of developing cervical cancer:

• Having many sexual partners or becoming sexually active early
• Smoking
• Weakened immune system
• Having multiple pregnancies
• Given birth at a very young age
• Long-term use of the contraceptive pill
• Family history of cervical cancer

What is the most common treatment for cervical cancer?

Treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or combinations of these. Deciding on the kind of treatment depends on several factors, such as the stage of cancer, as well as age and overall state of health. Treatment for early-stage cervical cancer, when cancer remains within the cervix, has a good success rate. Further cancer spreads from its original area, and the lower the success rate tends to be. Cancer is detected in Stage III or IV in most cases and by this stage the treatment is very expensive and the condition is life-threatening.

Cervical Cancer Screening Test

Cervical cancer can often be prevented by having regular screenings to find any precancers and treat them. The following tests and procedures are available to screen for cervical cancer:

  • Pap smear test: This is the most common test for early cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer. It involves gathering a sample of cells from the cervix by trained healthcare professionals/Gynaecologists to check for abnormal cells in the cervix.
  • VIA: It is a screening test that can be done with few tools and the naked eye. During VIA, a dilution of white vinegar is applied to the cervix. The health care provider then looks for abnormalities on the cervix, which will turn white when exposed to vinegar.
  • HPV DNA test: This test is done on a sample of cells removed from the woman’s cervix. This sample is tested for the strains of HPV most commonly linked to cervical cancer. With the HPV self-sample collection device, a woman can take her own sample for testing.

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Dr Tanvi Gupta
Dr Tanvi is a public health professional. She has women related health issues in India as her major area of interest. She is currently engaged in an awareness programme about incidence of cancer among women in general and cervical cancer in particular.