CERVICAL CANCER FACTS
The cervix is in the bottom part of the uterus (or womb, where a baby grows). It joins the uterus to the vagina (birth canal).
Most women who develop cervical cancer are between 20 and 50 years old. It used to be one of the main causes of death from cancer, but the widespread use of the Pap test has helped doctors find cervical cancer in the early stages. Cervical cancer often can be treated successfully when it is caught and treated early.
Before cervical cancer appears, the cells of the cervix go through precancerous changes, known as dysplasia. Usually this is a slow process that develops over many years.
An annual Pap test looks for these changes. If precancerous cells are found, they often can be removed.
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which usually is passed from person to person by sexual contact.
In most people, the immune system clears the virus before it is detected or causes cells to change. However, in a small percentage of people the virus will remain and cause cell changes that may develop into cancer.
Cervical Cancer Types
Cervical cancer is usually one of the following types, which are named for the type of cell where they develop. The most common types of cervical cancer are:
Squamous cell carcinoma (cancer): This is the main type of cervical cancer and is found in 80% to 90% of cases. It develops in the lining of the cervix.
Adenocarcinoma develops in gland cells that produce cervical mucus. About 10% to 20% of cervical cancers are adenocarcinomas.
Mixed carcinoma (cancer): Occasionally, cervical cancer has features of squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
In rare instances, other types of cancer, such as neuroendocrine (small and large cell cervical cancer), melanoma, sarcoma and lymphoma, are found in the cervix.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting cervical cancer is a risk factor.
HPV is spread by sexual contact and is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer, as well as many vaginal and vulvar cancers. HPV may cause the cells in the cervix to change. If abnormal cells are not found and treated, they may become cancer.
As many as 75% of men and women who have had sex have HPV. Usually the body’s immune system handles the virus, and most people never know they have it. While most women with HPV will not get cervical cancer, you should be aware of the risk and have regular Pap tests.
Cervical cancer risk factors include:
Other cervical cancer risk factors include:
Not everyone with risk factors get cervical cancer. However, if you have risk factors it’s a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider.
Some people have an elevated risk of developing cervical cancer.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help prevent cervical cancer.
In rare cases, cervical cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you.
CERVICAL CANCER SYMPTOMS
In its earliest stages, cervical cancer usually does not have symptoms. This is why regular Pap tests are so important, particularly if you are sexually active.
When cervical cancer does have symptoms, they vary from person to person. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following:
These symptoms do not always mean you have cervical cancer. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may signal other health problems.
CERVICAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS
It’s important to diagnose cervical cancer early and accurately and find out if it has spread. This helps your doctors choose the best treatment for you. At NGHL, specialized experts use the most modern and accurate equipment to diagnose cervical cancer. With pinpoint attention to detail, our pathologists, diagnostic radiologists and specially trained technicians find out the exact extent of disease. This helps increase the likelihood your treatment will be successful.
Cervical Cancer Diagnostic Tests
If you have symptoms or Pap test results that suggest precancerous cells or cervical cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health; your lifestyle, including smoking and drinking habits; and your family medical history.
One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if you have cervical cancer and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working.
Colposcopy: This test uses an instrument called a colposcope to look more closely at an area of abnormal tissue on the cervix, vagina or vulva. A colposcope is a microscope designed to examine the cervix. It looks like a pair of binoculars on a stand.
Biopsy: In a biopsy to look for cervical cancer, the doctor removes a small amount of tissue from the cervix to look at under a microscope. Types of cervical biopsies include:
Punch biopsy: The tissue sample is removed from the cervix using biopsy forceps, an instrument used to grasp tissue firmly and remove it.
Endocervical curettage (ECC): A tissue sample is scraped from an area just past the opening of the cervix using a curette (small, spoon-shaped instrument) or a thin, soft brush.
LEEP (Loop electro-surgical excision procedure): This test uses a small wire that is heated with low-voltage, high-frequency radio waves to remove cells from the cervix.
Cone biopsy: A cone-shaped sample of tissue is removed so the pathologist can see if abnormal cells are in the tissue beneath the surface of the cervix. The amount of tissue removed is larger than that removed with other types of biopsy. This type of biopsy can be done by one of the following methods:
Cystoscopy or proctoscopy: If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer and your doctor thinks it may have spread, you may have a cytoscopy or proctoscopy or both. These tests use lighted tubes to view the inside of the bladder (cystoscopy) or the anus, rectum and lower colon (proctoscopy).
Imaging tests, which may include:
Laparoscopic retroperitoneal lymph node dissection: In this minimally invasive surgical procedure, lymph nodes are removed to help find if cancer has spread.
The treatment of cervical cancer generally depends on various factors – cancer stage, size and shape of the tumor, woman's age and general health. In earlier days, cervical cancer was being cured by the removal of cancerous tissues. However, nowadays surgeries have undergone heavy advancements. Different types of treatment options are:
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