Cervical cancer begins in the cells that line the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus (womb). The cervix connects the uterus body (the upper part where the fetus grows) to the vagina (birth canal).
Cancer develops when cells in the body begin to proliferate uncontrollably.
What exactly is the cervix?
The cervix is the bottom of your uterus (where a baby grows during pregnancy). It resembles a donut and connects your uterus to the opening of your vagina. It is covered in cell-based tissues. These healthy cells are what can develop into precancer cells.
What is the prevalence of cervical cancer?
Each year, approximately 14,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 35 and 44. The average diagnosis age is 50. Cervical cancer claims the lives of approximately 4,000 people each year. This rate is decreasing as a result of screenings and the HPV vaccine.
What are the most common cervical cancer signs and symptoms?
The early stages of cervical cancer are usually asymptomatic and difficult to detect. Cervical cancer symptoms may not appear for several years. The best way to avoid cervical cancer is to detect abnormal cells during cervical cancer screenings.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of stage 1 cervical cancer:
Watery or bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and odorous. Vaginal bleeding following sexual activity, between menstrual periods, or after menopause. Periods may be heavier and last longer than usual.
Symptoms of cancer spreading to nearby tissues or organs may include: difficult or painful urination, sometimes with blood in the urine.
- you may experience diarrhea, pain, or bleeding from your rectum.
- Fatigue, weight loss, and loss of appetite
- A general sense of illness.
- A dull backache or leg swelling.
- Abdominal/pelvic pain
What factors contribute to cervical cancer?
The virus HPV, which is transmitted sexually, is responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. HPV is transmitted through sexual contact (anal, oral, or vaginal) and can cause cancer. The majority of people will contract HPV at some point in their lives and be unaware of it because their bodies fight the infection. However, if your body does not fight the infection, the cells in your cervix can become cancerous.
Cervical cancer and HPV
There are over 100 different types of HPV, and about a dozen of them have been linked to cancer. The early detection of these types of HPV is critical in the prevention of cervical cancer. Regular screenings with your doctor can help detect cell changes before they become cancerous.
By protecting you against the HPV that causes up to 90% of all cervical cancers, the HPV vaccine can help prevent HPV infection.
How does cervical cancer pain feel?
Cervical cancer pain may not feel like much in the early stages of the disease, if at all. As cancer spreads to nearby tissues and organs, you may experience pelvic pain or difficulty urinating. Others may feel generally ill, tired, or lose their appetite.
How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
Cervical cancer develops slowly and over a long period of time. The cells in your cervix go through a lot of changes before they become cancerous. Cells in your cervix that were once normal begin to appear irregular or abnormal. These abnormal cells may disappear, remain unchanged, or develop into cancer cells.
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Most cases of cervical cancer can be detected through regular gynecological screeningsSO with a Pap test. A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a test that collects cells from the cervix. These cells are examined for precancers or other abnormalities.
If your Pap test results are abnormal, additional testing is required. This could include an HPV test, which is a specific test that looks for HPV infection in the cells of your cervix. Cervical cancer has been linked to specific types of HPV infection.
If your healthcare provider suspects you have cancer, they may examine your cervix and take a tissue sample for a biopsy. Many techniques, such as punch biopsy or endocervical curettage, can be used to obtain the tissue. In other cases, a wire loop or conization is used to collect cervix tissues for biopsy.
If the biopsy confirms cancer, additional tests will be performed to determine whether the disease has spread (metastasized). These tests may include the following:
- Studies on liver and kidney function.
- Urine and blood tests
- X-rays of the bladder, rectum, bowels, and abdomen.
- This is known as staging.
What tests are available to detect cervical cancer?
The Pap test and the HPV test are used to detect cervical cancer. These cervical cancer screenings can detect irregular or problematic cells in their earliest stages before they can develop into cancer. Cervical cancer is highly treatable and less likely to progress if these cells are discovered early.
Your healthcare provider collects cells for Pap and HPV tests by swabbing or scraping your cervix with a brush. You recline on an exam table, your feet in stirrups (like during a pelvic exam). A speculum is placed in your vagina (this opens up your vagina). The cells are placed in a liquid after the swab is taken.