Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, the uterine neck. Cancer occurs when cells multiply and spread uncontrollably.
Cervical cancer is classified into two categories based on the damaged cells:
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix accounts for over 70% of all cervical malignancies.
- Cervical adenocarcinoma affects mucus-producing cells and accounts for 25% of cervical malignancies.
Every year, roughly 900 Australians get cervical cancer. The number of incidents dropped after the national cervical cancer screening program was implemented in 1991 and again in 2007.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
Pre-cancer frequently has no symptoms or indicators to indicate its presence. Early symptoms of cervical cancer are common. Symptoms may be more severe in advanced cancer or cancer that has progressed to other regions of the body depending on the tissues and organs to which the illness has spread. People should seek medical attention if they notice a new symptom that doesn’t go away, even if it isn’t cancer, because the underlying reason might be something else.
Cervical cancer may present itself in any or all of the following ways:
- Between or following menstrual cycles, there may be a little amount of bleeding.
- An abnormally lengthy and heavy menstrual flow.
- Dousing or a pelvic exam might cause bleeding.
- The amount of vaginal discharge has increased.
- Sexual intercourse can cause discomfort.
- The onset of menopausal bleeding
- Persistent, unexplained back and/or pelvic discomfort
Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Those of Hispanic or African American descent have a greater chance of developing cervical cancer than women of Caucasian descent.
Other Factors that Increase the Risk of Cervical Cancer:
- The usage of oral contraceptives over an extended period of time
- Having a large number of children
- Being infected with HIV or having a compromised immune system
- Having had several sexual partners during one’s life
When should I schedule a visit with my doctor?
Unexpected vaginal bleeding and/or pelvic discomfort are common occurrences in women at various times of their lives. The majority of the time, it is not caused by cervical cancer. However, if your symptoms are concerning to you or if they persist for more than a couple of weeks, you should consult with your doctor.
If you’re not sure what to do about your symptoms, you may use the healthdirect Symptom Checker to get some guidance.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
When a woman has a positive cervical screening test but no symptoms, it might lead to a diagnosis of cervical cancer
To check for cervical cancer, your doctor may order tests such as:
- to search for aberrant cells that might be cancerous (colposcopy)
- Biopsy: taking a sample of your cervix to examine for cancer cells (may be done during colposcopy)
- blood tests to assess kidney and liver function, as well as general health.
- to search for evidence of cancer spread within your body with a CT scan or an MRI
Finding out how advanced a person’s cancer is is critical since it helps them determine the most effective sort of therapy for them.
In order to determine how far cancer has progressed and if it has impacted local structures or more distant organs, it is necessary to stage the malignancy.
A 4-stage system
Cervical cancer is staged most frequently using the Trusted Source method.
Stage 0: There are precancerous cells present.
Stage 1: Cancer cells have spread from the surface of the cervix into deeper tissues of the cervix, and it is possible that they have spread to the uterus and adjacent lymph nodes.
Stage 2: Cancer has spread beyond the cervix and uterus, but it has not spread as far as the walls of the pelvis or the lower section of the vaginal opening. It may or may not have an effect on the lymph nodes in the surrounding area.
Stage 3: There may be cancer cells present in the lower portion of the vagina or on the walls of the pelvis, and it is possible that these cells are obstructing the ureters, which are the tubes that transport urine away from the bladder. It may or may not have an effect on the lymph nodes in the surrounding area.
Stage 4: Cancer has spread to the bladder or the rectum and is growing out of the pelvis, according to the doctor. It is possible that the lymph nodes will be affected. As the disease progresses into stage 4, it will spread to distant organs such as the liver, bones, lungs, and lymph nodes, among others.
Going through screening and getting medical attention if any symptoms appear can help a person get access to early treatment and boost their chances of surviving a cancer diagnosis.
Several steps can help minimize the risk of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer and some HPV strains are clearly linked. Cervical cancer might be reduced if every female adhered to the existing HPV immunization programs.
A vaccination against two HPV strains. Others cause cervical cancer. Using a condom helps prevent HPV infection.
Regular cervical screening may help detect and treat early indications of cancer before it progresses or spreads. Screening does not identify cancer but changes in the cervix’s cells.
Less sexual partners
The risk of HPV transmission increases with a woman’s sexual partners. This increases the chance of cervical cancer.
Delaying first sex
The risk of HPV infection increases with a woman’s age when she has her first sexual encounter. The longer she waits, the less risk.
Women who smoke and have HPV have an increased risk of cervical cancer.