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Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer and a leading cause of death in women. WHO statistics show cervical cancer is the 4th most widespread cancer in women. Close to 580,000 new cases of cervical cancer were reported globally 2018. The figure represents 6.6% of all cancers in women. Although the majority of deaths occur in low to middle income countries, cervical cancer remains a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the US.
Studies have shown that the high mortality rate attributed to cervical cancer can be decreased if comprehensive and pragmatic steps are taken. The measures include prevention, effective screening, early diagnosis and treatment. Steps are being taken by health stakeholders to avail vaccines to prevent viruses like Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that is associated with cervical cancer. Screening is critical in analyzing precancerous changes and stopping its spread.
If pre-cancer symptoms are not acted upon it can easily lead to full blown cancer. According to WHO, cancer screening should be performed at least once a year with special focus on women age 30 to 49. The recommended screening tests include cytology, HPV testing and VIA or Visual Inspection with acetic acid.
During the initial stages, cervical cancer can also be diagnosed through microscopy because the cancerous cells are still outside the lymph nodes. As the cancer grows, the lymph nodes become larger and lesions begin to form. The cancer soon grows beyond the cervix to the nearby pelvic area like the cervical tissues. If left untreated, advanced cervical cancer will spread beyond the pelvic area and affect the lymph nodes, kidneys and other parts of the body.
Early diagnosis of cervical cancer can help detect symptoms and encourage treatment. A comprehensive approach to prevention and control of cervical cancer encompasses vaccination, screening, palliative care, community education and treatment. Approaches focused on women at high risk of contracting the cancer has been found to offer better outcomes to the larger community. According to Medicine Net the 4 common symptoms of cervical cancer:
This is the most notable symptom of cervical cancer. A woman suffering cervical cancer may experience bleeding after a sexual encounter, during menstrual periods and after menopause. Abnormal bleeding could also be attributed to a pelvic exam or heavy menstruation. The other known reasons for abnormal bleeding include:
Before making any diagnosis, the doctor will first request to know the woman’s age. It is important because women age 30 and below may experience vaginal bleeding due to irregular menstrual cycle or pregnancy. On the other hand, women in the 40 to 60 age bracket may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding as a result of menopause.
Pain during intercourse often appears in women with advanced cervical cancer. The pain and discomfort are usually triggered by the growth of the tumor in and around the reproductive organs. The pain may also come from the infections that cause cervical cancer. When you experience pain and discomfort during copulation, you need to get in touch with your doctor.
If left unattended, advanced cervical cancer can mestasize around the pelvis and cause pelvic pain. The pain is usually concentrated below the navel. Most women describe the pain with experiences of sharp twitching’s and dull aches, which may be continuous or intermittent. The level of pain usually arises during intercourse. From here the cancer will affect the lymph nodes and other parts of the body like kidneys, appendix and legs.
A foul discharge is one of the most recognized symptoms of cervical cancer. This usually happens when the cervical cancer is deprived of oxygen, which causes some cell to die and spread the infection. The infection of the cancerous tumor is what causes unpleasant smelling discharge. The varied discharge may mix with blood or turn into a pale, brown secretion.
Cervical cancer usually starts at the lower extremity of the uterus. If the cancer spreads beyond the cervix, it can affect surrounding tissues and organs and trigger additional symptoms. Women with advanced cervical cancer may experience pain and swollen legs, irregular urination, weight loss, bone fractures and blood in the urine. The pain in the leg begins when the affected or inflamed tissues presses against the nerves in the pelvic lining. The infection can lead to pain in the abdomen and lower back. Swelling of the legs is caused by the buildup of urine in the kidneys.
When this happens, the feet and ankles begin to swell. Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite usually occurs even if the affected individual eats as they normally do. The reason is because the body requires high amounts of cytokine protein to break down fat at an unusually higher rate. Irregular urination occurs when the kidney experiences a blockade. The urination can sometimes feel uncomfortable and difficult. It is important to know that early stages of cervical cancer may not be linked to any symptoms, a fact that makes it difficult to detect onset cervical cancer.
The leading causes and risk factors of cervical cancer include: Human Papillomavirus, smoking, and prolonged usage of oral contraceptives (for birth control). HPV infection is generally caused by skin contact, which includes sexual intercourse. The infection is very common by most medical accounts, but may dissipate naturally on its own. In some women, the HPV lingers on thereby leading to abnormal growth of cervical cells, a precancerous condition that leads to cervical cancer. Doctors can easily detect this early development.
The procedures for testing precancerous changes in the cervix include Pap smear and regular pelvic examination. Studies show that catching the cervical cancer in the first 5 years can increase the survival rate by over 90% once a diagnosis is made. Treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, therapy and radiation therapy. Women are encouraged to schedule a gynecological examination at least once a year to check for signs of cervical cancer and other risk factors in order to maintain high quality of life over the coming years.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author. This content has not been paid for by any advertiser nor does WhipCancer.org recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. WhipCancer.org does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and information contained on this site is intended for informational purposes only. Please seek the advice of your physician or other professional healthcare provider with any questions you may have.