In this Health Article:
- What Causes Cervical Cancer?
- What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
- What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Cervical Cancer?
- What Are the Treatments Available for Cervical Cancer?
- How Do You Cope Up with Cervical Cancer?
- What Are the Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer?
- Medications for Cervical Cancer Available at InternationalDrugMart.com
- Self Care
IntroductionCervical cancer is the most common cancer that occurs in the reproductive system of women. Cervical cancer is often triggered by the HPV (human pappilomavirus). HPV is sexually transmitted and spreads the infection. The immune system in the woman’s body tries its best to fight this virus but in few cases it fails. This virus continues to thrive in the woman’s body for several years. It slowly converts the healthy cells in the cervix area into cancerous cells. Women aged between 35 and 55 are prone to cervical cancer.
A study proves that cervical cancer is the important cause for cancer death in women. In the past few years Pap test screening has helped to detect cervical cancer thus bringing down the number of deaths.
What Causes Cervical Cancer?Majority of the cervical cancers are caused through
- HPV (human pappilomavirus), a virus. HPV is the most common cause for cervical cancer. This virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Not all varieties of HPV virus cause cervical cancer.
- The HPV virus can remain in your system for years and it may go unnoticed. You might develop cervical cancer many years after you were infected by this virus. Regular pap smears can help the physician evaluate changes in the cervical cells.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?
Women do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of cervical cancer. Regular Pap smear test is the only tool to identify any cell changes in the cervix. Few commonly reported symptoms by women experiencing cervical cancer are
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Sudden and drastic change in menstrual cycle
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding during sexual intercourse
- Unusual foul smelling vaginal discharge containing blood stained mucus. As the cancer progresses women experience the following symptoms
- Anemia due to excessive vaginal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Pelvic pain
- Urine or fecal leak into the vagina due to an unusual opening in between the vagina and the bladder or rectum
What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Cervical Cancer?Cervical cancer can be identified through regular screening tests. These tests should be regularly done after the woman becomes sexually active. Common screening tests are
- Pap smear test - Cells from the cervix are evaluated for infection and changes. This test is helpful in the precancerous stage to identify any changes in the cell structure of the cervix. It also helps in identifying abnormal cells in the outer layer of the cervix.
- HPV DNA test - This test helps in identifying the type of HPV virus that has infected your cervix in case of infection. HPV DNA tests are not suitable for women aged below thirty years as HPV infections (if any) in these women settle down by themselves.
- Cone biopsy/conization - A cone shape sample of cells is collected from the inner layer of the cervix and is examined in the laboratory for any significant changes in your cervix.
- Colposcopy/cervix examination - A special microscope called the colposcope is used to examine the cervix for any abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, a small sample is collected and sent to the laboratory for further investigation.
- Sample cells from the cervix/biopsy - A sample of unusual cells is removed and sent for further examination. Different types of biopsies are used to collect sample from different areas of the cervix.
- Physical examination of the bladder and rectum - Your physician may use cytoscopy to study your bladder and proctoscopy to study your rectum.
- Intravenous pyelogram - To check for blocks in kidney
- Imaging tests - Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI scan (of abdomen and pelvis), and CT sans (of abdomen and pelvis) are ordered to find the intensity of spread.
- Blood tests - Complete blood count to check for anemia
- Chemistry screen - To check kidney functioning
- PET (positron emission tomography) - To check the level of spread of cancer
What Are the Treatments Available for Cervical Cancer?Cervical cancer if detected at early stages can be cured with ease. Common treatments available for cervical cancer are
Treatment for non-invasive and limited cancer
- Hysterectomy - Removal of the cancerous area from the cervix and uterus.
- Conization - A cone shaped portion of the affected cervical tissue is removed using a scalpel.
- Cryosurgery - Freezing and killing the cancerous and precancerous tissues.
- Laser surgery - A narrow beam of light is used to kill the cancerous and precancerous tissues.
- LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) - Electricity is used to remove abnormal tissue
Cancers that affect the inner layers of the cervix is called as invasive cancer. Extensive treatment is required to cure this stage of cancer. Common treatments available are
- Chemotherapy - Anti-cancer chemicals are used to kill the cancerous cells. These chemicals are injected into the bloodstream along with a combination of other chemicals. They kill the cancerous cells and any rapidly growing cells. Chemotherapy can be given orally, intravenously, or intramuscularly.
- Radiation therapy - High dosage of x-ray is used to kill the cancerous cells and thus reduce the cancerous growth. Radiation therapy can be either internal (brachytherapy) or external (external beam radiation).
- Surgery - hysterectomy (to cure early stages of cancer).
How Do You Cope Up with Cervical Cancer?Do not worry, you are not alone. Each woman has her own way of coping up with the situation, listed below guideline can help women to effectively cope up with cervical cancer
- Spend time for your own self - Spend time for your own self. Indulge in some activity that you like to do and enjoy the most. Do not feel guilty when you feel you need your own space.
- Educate your own self - Learning about the disease is the best way to handle the disease. Clarify all your doubts with your health care provider.
- Participate in support network gatherings - Friends, family members can help you but cannot feel the way you are feeling right now. People already facing the problem will be of better help. They can share emotions and make you understand the disease better.
- Prepare yourself - If your doctor suggests hospitalization prepare yourself for pre-hospitalization and post-surgery hospitalization requirements.
- Follow your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Give your body the rest it deserves post-surgically.
What Are the Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer?Cervical cancer can be prevented if you can prevent the HPV infection. Follow these simple steps to prevent cervical cancer
- HPV can spread through unprotected sex. So practice safe sex by using a condom.
- If you are young (below 20) do not hurry into sexual activity. Delay the first intercourse as much as you can.
- Eat a plant-based diet. Several studies show that increased intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables decreases an individual's risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Vaccinate yourself against HPV; a new vaccination called Gardasil protects you from the virus.
- Pap smears is compulsory, get it done every year. Pap test has to be done regularly from when women are 21 until they turn 70.
- Quit smoking as smoking can lead to cervical cancer.
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Self CareManaging the situation is the key to handling any disease; follow these simple but effective self care tips to manage cervical cancer.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables to prevent constipation (chemotherapy induces constipation).
- If you have nausea or vomiting, check with your doctor and stop yourself from getting dehydrated (chemotherapy induces constipation). Do not use self medication for nausea.
- If you are experiencing hair loss due to the treatment, switch over to mild shampoos that will not irritate your scalp.
- Learn to cope with stress, talk to support groups. Develop new hobbies, and learn to live your life.
- If you experience sleepless nights, check with your doctor if he can help else stop the morning and afternoon naps. Exercise regularly and follow strict sleeping pattern.
- Eat a balanced diet; this will help you fight fatigue.
- Stop smoking and eat a healthy diet. Get some physical activity too.