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Cervical Cancer

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is most commonly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. When left untreated, abnormal cells in the cervix can become cancerous over time, leading to cervical cancer.

Types of Cervical Cancer

There are two main types of cervical cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer starts in the thin, flat cells lining the outer part of the cervix.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer starts in the glandular cells lining the cervical canal.

Stages of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is staged based on the extent of the disease. Stages range from 0 to IV, with higher stages indicating more advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Bleeding during intercourse.

It’s important to note that early-stage cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms, underscoring the importance of regular screenings for early detection.

When to see a doctor?

It’s important to see a doctor if you experience any symptoms of cervical cancer or if you have risk factors for the disease. Additionally, regular screenings, such as Pap tests and HPV tests, are recommended for early detection.

Causes of Cervical Cancer

  • Most commonly caused by infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. 
  • Other risk factors include:
  • Smoking.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Having multiple sexual partners.
  • Early sexual activity.
  • History of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Screening for Cervical Cancer

Screening for cervical cancer typically involves a combination of tests aimed at detecting abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, which can indicate the presence of precancerous or cancerous conditions. The primary screening tests for cervical cancer include:

  • Pap test (Pap Smear):

During a Pap test, cells are collected from the cervix and examined under a microscope for abnormalities.

The test can detect changes in cervical cells before they become cancerous, allowing for early intervention.

Pap tests are usually recommended for women starting at age 21 and should be repeated every three years for women aged 21 to 29. For women aged 30 to 65, Pap tests can be done every three years or in combination with an HPV test every five years (co-testing).

  • HPV test (Human Papillomavirus test):

The HPV test checks for the presence of high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

It is often performed in conjunction with a Pap test (co-testing) for women aged 30 and older.

HPV testing can help identify women at higher risk of developing cervical cancer, guiding further evaluation and management.

  • Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) or Lugol’s Iodine (VILI):

In resource-limited settings where Pap testing is not readily available, visual inspection methods such as VIA or VILI may be used.

During VIA/VILI, the cervix is examined visually after applying acetic acid or Lugol’s iodine to highlight abnormal areas that may require further evaluation.

  • HPV Self-sampling:

Some healthcare providers offer HPV self-sampling kits, allowing women to collect a vaginal sample themselves for HPV testing.

Self-sampling can improve access to cervical cancer screening, particularly for underserved populations or those who may face barriers to healthcare access.

It’s important for women to discuss their individual risk factors and screening options with their healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate screening strategy for their needs. Regular cervical cancer screening can help detect abnormalities early, when they are most treatable, and reduce the risk of developing invasive cervical cancer.

Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer

If abnormalities are found during screening tests or if symptoms are present, further diagnostic tests may be performed. The diagnosis involves a series of tests and procedures aimed at confirming the presence of cancerous cells in the cervix, determining the extent of the disease, and guiding treatment decisions. The diagnostic process typically includes the following steps:

  • Medical history and Physical examination: The healthcare provider will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam, to assess for any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain. 
  • Pap test (Pap Smear): A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is often the first step in cervical cancer screening. During this test, cells are gently collected from the cervix using a brush or spatula and examined under a microscope for abnormalities, such as changes in cell size, shape, or structure. 
  • HPV test (Human Papillomavirus test): In cases where abnormal cells are detected on a Pap test, or for women aged 30 and older, an HPV test may be performed to check for the presence of high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. 
  • Colposcopy: If abnormalities are found on a Pap test or HPV test, or if a woman has symptoms suggestive of cervical cancer, a colposcopy may be recommended. During this procedure, a special magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used to closely examine the cervix for signs of abnormal tissue. 
  • Biopsy: If suspicious areas are identified during colposcopy, a biopsy may be performed to obtain a small sample of tissue from the cervix for further evaluation under a microscope. There are different types of biopsies, including punch biopsy, cone biopsy (LEEP), or endocervical curettage (ECC), depending on the location and extent of the abnormal tissue. 
  • Imaging tests: In cases where cervical cancer is suspected to have spread beyond the cervix, imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, or positron emission tomography (PET) scan may be ordered to evaluate the extent of the disease and identify any areas of spread. 
  • Staging: Once a diagnosis of cervical cancer is confirmed, further tests may be done to determine the stage of the cancer, which helps guide treatment decisions. Staging may involve additional imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scan, as well as procedures to evaluate the lymph nodes and other organs for signs of cancer spread.

The results of these tests and procedures help healthcare providers determine the stage of the cancer and develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to the patient’s specific needs and preferences.

Treatment of Cervical Cancer

The treatment of cervical cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences. 

  • Surgery:

Surgery may be recommended for early-stage cervical cancer or in cases where the cancer is localized and has not spread beyond the cervix. Surgical options may include:

    • Conization: Removal of a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix containing the cancerous cells.
    • Simple hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus and cervix.
    • Radical hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus, cervix, nearby lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues.
    • Pelvic exenteration: Removal of the uterus, cervix, nearby lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues, including part of the vagina, bladder, or rectum, in cases of advanced cancer.
  • Radiation therapy:

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to destroy cancer cells or shrink tumors. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. There are two main types of radiation therapy:

    • External beam radiation: Radiation is delivered from a machine outside the body.
    • Brachytherapy: Radioactive material is placed directly into or near the tumor, allowing for targeted radiation delivery.
  • Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It may be given before or after surgery, or in combination with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy for cervical cancer is often administered intravenously or orally and may be used in combination with other treatments to improve effectiveness.

  • Targeted therapy:

Targeted therapy drugs target specific molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth and spread. They may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, particularly in cases of advanced or recurrent cervical cancer.

  • Immunotherapy:

Immunotherapy works by stimulating the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments and has shown promise in the treatment of advanced cervical cancer.

  • Clinical trials:

Clinical trials evaluate new treatments or combinations of treatments for cervical cancer. Participation in a clinical trial may offer access to innovative therapies and contribute to the advancement of cancer treatment.

Why choose Shukan Hospital & IVF Centre in Ahmedabad for Cervical Cancer treatment?

At Shukan Hospital & IVF Centre, we offer comprehensive care for cervical cancer patients, including advanced diagnostic services, personalized treatment plans, minimally invasive surgical options, and supportive care services. Our experienced team of gynecologists, oncologists, and support staff are dedicated to providing compassionate care and achieving the best possible outcomes for our patients.

How to prevent Cervical Cancer?

Preventive measures for cervical cancer include getting vaccinated against HPV, practicing safe sex, quitting smoking, and attending regular screenings. HPV vaccination is especially important for young individuals before they become sexually active.

FAqs

What is cervical cancer pain like?

Cervical cancer may not cause pain in its early stages. As the cancer progresses, symptoms such as pelvic pain or pain during intercourse may occur.

Can you feel cervical cancer with your finger?

Cervical cancer is typically detected through screenings such as Pap tests and HPV tests. A healthcare provider may perform a pelvic exam to check for abnormalities, but cervical cancer cannot be diagnosed by feeling with a finger alone.

How do you know if you have cervical cancer?

Symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and unusual vaginal discharge. However, early-stage cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms, which is why regular screenings are important for early detection.

Are routine pelvic exams necessary?

Routine pelvic exams, including Pap tests and HPV tests, are recommended for early detection of cervical cancer and other gynecological conditions.

Does cervical cancer affect fertility?

Treatment for cervical cancer, such as surgery or radiation therapy, may affect fertility. However, options such as fertility preservation techniques or assisted reproductive technologies may be available for some patients.

Will cervical cancer treatment affect my sex life?

Treatment for cervical cancer may affect sexual function and libido. However, many patients are able to resume normal sexual activity after treatment. It’s important to discuss any concerns or changes in sexual function with your healthcare provider.

How long does it take to recover from cervical cancer treatment?

The recovery time from cervical cancer treatment varies depending on the type of treatment received, the stage of the cancer, and the individual’s overall health. Some women may recover relatively quickly, while others may experience long-term side effects or complications that require ongoing management and support.

Is cervical cancer 100% curable?

While cervical cancer is highly treatable, especially when diagnosed early, it may not always be 100% curable in advanced stages or in cases of recurrence. The chances of successful treatment and long-term survival depend on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, the aggressiveness of the cancer cells, and the patient’s overall health. However, with advances in treatment options and early detection, many women with cervical cancer can be effectively treated and go on to lead healthy lives.

Can cervical cancer come back after treatment?

Yes, cervical cancer can recur after treatment, particularly in cases of advanced or aggressive cancer. Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers are important to monitor for any signs of recurrence and to detect and treat any new or recurrent cancer early.

Is cervical cancer serious?

Yes, cervical cancer can be a serious disease if not detected and treated early. However, the prognosis for cervical cancer is generally good when detected in its early stages. Regular screening tests can help detect cervical cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective.