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What you need to know about cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer affects the entrance of the womb. The cervix is a narrow part of the lower uterus, often referred to as the neck of the womb. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), which is preventable with a vaccine.

Types of cervical cancer.

1. Squamous cell carcinoma.

It forms in the lining of your cervix. It is found in up to 90% cases of cervical cancer.

2. Adenocarcinoma.

This forms in the cells that produce mucus.

3. Mixed carcinoma.

This features all of the two types.

Causes of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The causes include;

1. Human papilloma virus(HPV) infection

2. Having many sexual partners.

3. Smoking.

4. Birth control pills used over a long term.

5. Engaging in early sexual contact.

Risk factors.

Many sexual partners – the greater the number of sexual partners the greater the chance of getting HPV.

Other STIs – such chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDs increase the risk of getting cervical cancer.

Smoking – it is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.

Having weakened immune system.

Exposure to miscarriage prevention drugs – if your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in 1950s you may have increased risk of a type of cervical cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.

Symptoms of cervical cancer.

1. Pain during sex.

2. Unusual vaginal bleeding, such as after menopause or after pelvic exam.

3. Unusual vaginal discharge.

After it has spread, the cancer can cause; 

Pelvis pain. | Trouble peeing. | Kidney failure. | Bone pain. | Weight loss  | Fatigue.

Diagnosis.

1. Bimanual examination 

The doctor will check a woman’s body for any unusual changes in the cervix, uterus, ovaries and other nearby organs. By using a speculum or 2 fingers or 1 hand.

2. Pap test.

A doctor gently scrapes the outside of the cervix and vagina, taking samples of cells for testing.

HPV testing.

It is similar to a pap test. It is done on a sample of cells from the patients cervix. The doctor may test for HPV at the same time as pap test. Many women have HPV but do not have cervical cancer, so HPV testing alone is not enough for diagnosis of cervical cancer.

Colposcopy.

The doctor may do colposcopy to check the cervix for a abnormal areas. It can also be used to help guide a biopsy of the cervix. It uses a special instrument called colposcope.

Biopsy.

It involves the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. Other tests can suggest the presence of cancer but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis.

X- ray.

An x-ray is a way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body using a small amount of radiation.

CT scan.

It takes pictures of the inside of the body using x rays taken from different angles.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It uses magnetic fields not x-ray to produce detailed images. It can be used to measure the size of the tumor.

Position emission tomography ( PET).

It is usually combined with a CT scan called PET – CT scan. It is a way of creating pictures of organs and tissues inside the body. A small amount of radioactive sugar substance is injected into the patients body.

FAQ

Treatment .

Surgery.

Early stages of cervical cancer is typically treated with surgery. Options include;

1. Surgery to cut away the cancer only.

For a very small cervical cancer it might be possible to remove the cancer entirely with a cone biopsy. This option may make it possible for you to consider becoming pregnant in future.

2. Surgery to remove the cervix (trachelectomy).

Early stages of cervical cancer may be treated with this procedure which involves the removal of the cervix and surrounding tissues. The uterus remains after this procedure hence you can get pregnant when you choose to.

3. Surgery to remove the cervix and uterus (hysterectomy).

Most early stages of cervical cancers are treated with radical hysterectomy operation which involves the removal of the cervix, uterus and nearby lymp nodes. It can cure Early stage of cervical cancer and prevent recurrence. But removing the uterus makes it impossible to become pregnant.

Radiation therapy.

It uses high powered energy beams such as beams such as x-ray or protons to kill cancer cells. It is often combined with chemotherapy as primary treatment for locally advanced cervical cancer.

Chemotherapy.

It is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. It can be given through a vein or taken in pill form. Sometimes both methods are used. For locally advanced cancer low doses of chemotherapy are often accompanied by radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy.

Targeted drug treatments focus on a specific area that has cancer cells. It can cause cancer cells to die. It is usually accompanied by chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy.

It is a type of drug treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer. For cervical cancer the treatment might be considered if the cancer is advanced and the other treatments are not working.

Supportive ( palliative) care.

Palliative care is specialized medical care that focus on relieving pain and other symptoms of serious illness. Palliative care specialists work with you, your family and your doctors to provide an extra layer of support that complement your ongoing care.

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