Different strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus, play a crucial role in causing most cervical cancer. When someone is exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system prevents the virus from causing any harm. In a low percentage of people, the virus survives over the years and, over time, causes some healthy cervical cells to become cancerous.
About Cervical Cancer
Cancer occurs when cells in a particular body area begin to grow uncontrollably. Cervical cancer is cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix area. The lower, narrow end of the uterus (womb) is called Cervix. The cervix is the connection between the uterus and the vagina (birth canal). This cancer usually grows slowly over the years. Before any cancerous cells appear in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through a condition called dysplasia, in which cervical tissues start getting abnormal cells. Over time, if not treated, these unwanted cells may become cancerous and result in cancer of cervical. (Source & Reference)
Causes of Cervical Cancer
Over the years, various risk factors have been identified by researchers that may increase the odds that a woman might develop cervical cancer. It occurs when healthy cervical cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. Healthy cells usually grow and multiply at a particular rate. Also, these cells die after a particle time. But due to DNA changes, the abnormal cells grow and multiply at an abnormal rate. Also, they live much longer than normal cells.
Eventually, these abnormal cells accumulate and turn into cancerous tumors. Cancer cells can spread from the source body parts to nearby tissues; over time, these cells cumulatively create tumors in several body parts. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, plays a key role in cervical cancer. (Source & Reference)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: If your sexual history includes scenarios like becoming sexually active at a young age (especially younger than 18 years old) or multiple sexual partners or one partner who is considered high-risk (someone with HPV infection or who has many sexual partners), then your chances of getting infected with HPV, HIV/AIDS and chlamydia will be high. HPV is one of the critical causes of this cancer.
- Smoking: Female smokers have much more chances of smoking-related health hazards than male smokers. Smoking is also a risk factor for this cancer.
- Weekend immune system: if your immune system has been weekend, you might get infected by HPV easily, leading to cancer of cervical.
- Long-term use of birth control pills, multiple full-term pregnancies, and a full-term pregnancy at a young age can be considered significant risk factors for cancer.
- If you have a family or personal history of cervical cancer, your chances of getting cancer of cervical will be very high.
Cervical cancer has several signs and symptoms; if you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to contact your doctor immediately:
- Vaginal symptoms: If you have been experiencing vaginal bleeding after sex or smelly watery discharge from the vagina. Also, symptoms like bleeding from the vagina in between periods or after menopause. All of these are significant symptoms of this cancer.
- Pelvic pain or pain during sex: If you have pelvic and abdomen pain or have been experiencing pain during sex, you should immediately see a doctor.
- Painful urination and bowel movement: If you have been feeling pain during urination or bowel movement, also you have observed blood in your urine and bowel. These are major signs
- Swelling and fatigue: If your legs have swelled and you have been feeling tired lately, immediately contact your health consultant, as these signs are counted as symptoms.
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If you have been experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, your medical specialist will perform a physical exam and check your medical history. After that, a thorough diagnosis will be conducted to determine any cancerous growth in your cervix.
- Pap test: A Pap smear is a procedure where cells are collected from your cervix, the lower, narrow end of your uterus right at the top of your vagina. This would determine if you have HPV.
- Colposcopy: If you are HPV positive, a colposcopy will be done. This process uses a colposcope to look into your cervix closely to detect any trace of a cancerous tumor.
- Biopsy: A small sample of cells will be collected from the cervix, and that sample will be checked under a microscope for any trace of cancer in the cervix. Three types of biopsies are done to determine cervical cancer-
- Colposcopy biopsy
- Endocervical curettage (endocervical scraping)
- Cone biopsy
- Imaging test: Imaging tests to check a detailed picture of the cervix to identify any abnormal cells in the cervix:
- Chest x-ray
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
- Intravenous urography (Source & Reference)
- Yearly pap smear tests and HPV vaccine at a young age can help you prevent the HPV virus. Hence the chances of cervical cancer will also decrease as HPV is the significant element of cervical cancer.
- Limit exposure to HPV or any other sexually transmitted disease by using condoms during sex. This would help you prevent cervical cancer.
- Avoid or stop smoking, as smoking is a primary risk factor for cervical cancer
- (Source & Reference)
- In India, the age-standardized cervical cancer rate is 14.7 per 100,000 women, and the age-standardized mortality rate is 9.2 per 100,000 women.
- Cervical cancer is associated with sexual behaviors such as poor genital hygiene, early age of marriage, multiple sexual partners, and repeated pregnancies.
- Death rate due to cervical cancer has dropped significantly with the increased rate of the Pap smear test.