Cervical cancer occurs when malignant or cancerous cells develop in the tissues of the cervix.
Research has shown that the primary cause of the condition is the human papillomavirus or HPV.
Early cervical cancer remains asymptomatic but with regular check-ups, growth of cancerous cells on the cervix can be detected at the earliest possible time.
Pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding are the two most common signs and symptoms of cervical cancer.
It is found that a cervical cancer vaccine can help reduce one’s chances of getting the disease.
The cervix is located in the lower narrow end of the uterus. It leads from the uterus to the vagina or birth canal.
In most cases, cervical cancer develops gradually. Before cancer develops in the cervix, the cells experience changes known as dysplasia. This is defined as the enlargement of a tissue caused by the proliferation of abnormal cells.
As the growth of these abnormal cells progress, they may potentially turn into cancer cells and then eventually spread more deeply into the cervix as well as its surrounding areas.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The primary risk factor for cervical cancer
A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a disease. When you have a risk factor, it doesn’t mean you will ultimately develop cancer. Likewise, if you don’t have any risk factors, it is not a guarantee you will not develop the condition.
If you’re worried whether or not you’re at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor immediately.
Some risk factors associated with cervical include:
- Multiple births
- Cigarette smoking
- Using oral contraceptive pills for a very long time
- Exposure to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while in the mother’s womb
- Being infected with the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV)
The risk of acquiring HPV infection can also be attributed to a weak immune system due to immunosuppression. Immunosuppression reduces your body’s ability to fight against diseases and infections.
During the early stage of cervical cancer, signs and symptoms usually don’t appear. With regular clinic visits, the formation of cancer cells on your cervix can be detected early. With early detection, the chance of recovery increases.
Other preventive measures you can do to reduce your chance of getting the disease is undergoing a test to screen for HPV and getting cervical cancer vaccine.
Signs and symptoms
Aside from pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding (including after coitus), abnormal vaginal discharge and pain during sexual intercourse may also be an indication of cervical cancer. If you experience these abnormal signs, inform your doctor right away.
The following tests are some of the most common procedures used to determine and diagnose cervical cancer:
Physical examination and medical history
This involves assessing your body to check for any signs of infection or disease including lumps or anything that appears to be suspicious.
Patients will be asked about their health history, lifestyle, habits, past illnesses, and treatments.
This is a screening procedure that involves inserting a speculum into the vagina to check for signs of the disease. Your healthcare provider will insert his two fingers and places his other hand over the lower abdomen to feel the size, position, and shape of the ovaries and uterus.
Otherwise known as Pap smear, this involves scraping a tiny portion of cells from your cervix to determine the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix.
If your Pap test shows an abnormal result, your doctor will most likely recommend that you undergo biopsy. This is done by cutting a sample of tissue on the cervix and checking the sample under a microscope to check for abnormal cell formation.
The procedure uses a curette, a spoon-shaped instrument to collect cells from the cervical canal. The samples extracted from the cervix are taken and observed under a microscope to detect the presence of cancer.