by Dr. Anna Roslyakova
You’ve recently visited your personal gynecologist for regular medical screening. But, when the doctor asked you about any abnormality have you seen in the few past months--you answered positively. On further investigation, your doctor confirms that you’re suffering from cervical cancer. Quite shocking news for you, isn’t it? In all over the world, cervical cancer is the main cause behind the increased death of the women recorded in every year.
Somehow, the mortality rate varies from developed nations to the developing one. In the developing nations, the cervical cancer is supposed to be the 2nd most common cause of death throughout the year, whereas, the cervical cancer is ranked as the 12th most common cancer in women.
According to the American Cancer Society, each year, around 12,000 American women gets affected from the cervical cancer. But, the death ratio is very much higher in the developing nations. About 370,000 women die annually due to the misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cervical cancer in the developing nations.
Lacking of information about the cervical cancer, dearth of awareness programs and irregular medical checkups are the root cause of the increased mortality of the cervical cancer especially in developing countries.
Cervical cancer- the silent killer
Female reproductive system is one of the most complicated systems of the body. And if any part of this system is affected, the entire system can get the negative impact. Cervix is the lowest part of the uterus.
In other words, the cervix is the connection between the uterus and the vagina. But, when the cervix size starts to grow on an uncontrollable rate, then, it is called as the cervical cancer. If the treatment doesn’t start on a right time, then, the cancer can spread in the nearby tissues or even throughout the body.
Cervical cancer is categorized into 4 main stages, including:
Stage 1: Cancerous growth has present only in the cervix. Good in prognosis and rapid recovery.
Stage 2: Cancerous growth is spread to the nearby tissues.
Stage 3: Cancer has involved the lower vagina or the side of the pelvis.
Stage 4: Cancer has spread widely, involving the bladder or bowel. Since, this stage is one of the most advanced ones, the prognosis and the recovery rate are too low.
Alarm bells of the Cervical Cancer
According to Dr. Mitchell Maiman, the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Staten Island university hospital in New York, ‘cervical cancer should be picked up before it actually causes the cancer’. He further added that when it’s dismissed and the patient may come with the symptoms, the disease has already become serious and invasive.
There are certain signs and symptoms indicating about something going wrong in your body. If you experience the pain in the lower belly or pelvis frequently, it could be due to cervical cancer. In some rare cases, pain on urination and blood in the stool or urine also are attributed to the cervical cancer. Bleeding from the vagina, which is not normal, like the bleeding between the menstrual cycles, after the menopause or sex is also the sign of the cancer of the cervix. Abnormal vaginal discharge and pain during sex are other cardinal symptoms of the tumor.
Cause of the cervical cancer
Human Pappilomavirus is the main underlying reason that leads to the cervical cancer. More often, the HPV causes the genital warts, which can be treated and prevented. But, when the genital warts are not visible and you don’t notice any symptoms, then the disease may progress to the cervical cancer.
Having more than one sex partner or smoking daily can also trigger the abnormal growth of the cells in the cervix. However, in several studies, it is also concluded that the young women (usually in teens or twenties) get affected by cervical cancer more commonly. Only the proper medical screening and early detection are the potent tools for reducing the death rate affiliated with the disease.
Medical screening tests available for the cervical cancer
Cancer of the cervix is considerable a preventable disease. Pap smear test is the hallmark for the early detection of the pre-cancerous growth in the cervix. During the Pap smear test, your doctor takes the cervical cells and sends them to the lab for the further lab analyses. The pain scale of this test varies from extreme pain to no pain.
Undoubtedly, the Pap smear test is highly effective but, in some conditions like during the menstruation, this test is contraindicated. Along with Pap smear test, the HPV test is also done simultaneously. Here is the quick list about who the candidate of the Pap smear test is and what is the significant of the HPV in specific age groups.
• Age 21-29: In every year, you should go for the Pap test. If the Pap test shows the abnormal results, then the HPV testing can be done as a follow-up test.
• Age 30-65: Both, HPV test and Pap test should be done in every 3 years. As an alternate, you can have a pap test alone as well.
• Above 65 years: If the Pap test is clear in the past years, then you should stop testing.
• Principal concerns: If your uterus or cervix is removed due to any medical reasons then, you don’t need to go for the Pap test. But, if your doctor has suspected any cancerous changes in the cervix, then, you should get the HPV test done. Either you’ve vaccinated, you should keep the Pap test in regular routines.
Biopsy, CT scans and MRI are other modalities that can help to figure out the density, spread and nature of the lesion. Having the compromised immune system due to the HIV infection or any other disease can worsen the cancer. Perhaps, you should be really very careful about your health when your immunity is not functional at its optimal level.
From precancerous lesion to the advanced stages, there are certain treatment options available in the world that can improve the life-expectancy, current health status and the recurrence of the cancer.
In early stages, the lesion can be removed by freezing it off. Surgery is the best option for eliminating the cancer of the specific area and somehow, it can minimize the recurrence issues. Radiotherapy is one of the commonly used methods for treating the cervical cancer. On the other end, the chemotherapy works as the anti-cancer drug. After getting treated, if you feel any symptom, you should tell your doctor and ask him about the pelvic exam to limit the spread of cancer as soon as possible.
Prevention is better than cure
Since, the cancer doesn’t show any significant symptoms initially, add the preventive measures earlier in your life. Gardasil, Gardasil 9 and Ceravix are three most commonly used vaccinations, due to which the drop in the mortality rate is not only noticed, in fact, the women eagerly participate in the annual screening programs.
Young women should get the vaccination straight away. By limiting the sexual partners and quitting the smoking, you can reduce the chances of the cervical cancer. Eating the natural food and exercising regularly can somehow make you less vulnerable towards some cancers, including the cervical cancer.
All you want to remember is that if you’ve genital warts or any other HPV in the past; you’re at a higher risk of developing the cervical cancer. Hence, try to prevent the HPV primarily; you’ll surely be kept away from the cervical cancer too.
Dr. Anna Roslyakova, a trustworthy expat doctor in Phnom Penh Cambodia, is a qualified and certified obstetrician-gynecologist. She offers a professional, yet personalized approach to gynecology, obstetrics and general women’s health through her own clinic.