Cervical Cancer

by Kemboi Kibet

The cervix is the part of the female reproductive organ that joins the womb to the top of the vagina.Cervical cancer affects the cells of the vagina. It happens when abnormal cells of the cervix cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) grow out of control.Having CIN also known as dysplasia does not mean you will have cervical cancer, it only increases your risk of having the disease.Most cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a sexually transmitted infection.Smoking, having many sexual partners and taking birth control also increases your chances of getting cervical cancer.PAP smear can detect abnormalities in the cervix and precancerous cell. Cervical cancer when detected early can be cured.

CAUSES

Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells acquire genetic mutation that make them grow out of control. These cells keep dividing and never die but instead form a mass, that is a tumor. The exact cause of the disease is unknown however it is known that HPV highly increases your risk of getting cervical cancer. Other contributing factors include lifestyle, genetic make and your environment.

RISK FACTORS

Sexually transmitted infections STI STI’S like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis or HIV increases your chances of getting HPV

Multiple Sexual Partners Having one or more sexual partners who have more than one sex partners increases your chances of being infected with HPV.

Smoking Cigarette Smoking and HPV work together to cause cervical cancer

Compromised Immune System Some women infected by HPV do not develop cancer. However having HPV and a compromised immune system due to a medical condition can increase your risk of having this type of cancer.

Engaging in early sex Having sex at an early age increases your risk of contracting HPV.

TYPES OF CERVICAL CANCER

Adenocarcinomas They make up a smaller portion of cervical cancer. They occur in the glandular cells that line the cervical canal. This type of cervical cancer involve cells with secretory functions.

Squamous cell carcinomas It accounts for about 90% of all cervical cancers and they begin in the ectocervix, the part of the cervix next to the vagina. It starts in the cervical canal and can be more difficult to detect during cervical screening.

SYMPTOMS

Early stages of cervical cancer produces not symptoms but as the cancer progresses, symptoms emerge. Some of the symptoms include

significant unexplained change in the menstrual cycle
abnormal vagina bleeding
vaginal discharge that may have mucus or a little blood. Discharge may also have a foul smell
pelvic pain and pain during sexual intercourse
bleeding of the cervix when it come into contact with something like a diaphragm or even having sex.
bleeding after going through menopause
anemia due to abnormal bleeding

STAGES OF CERVICAL CANCER

Stage I Cancer is limited to the cervix

Stage II Cancer is found in cervix and upper part of the vagina. it has not spread to the pelvis or lower part of the vagina

Stage III The tumor has invaded the pelvic wall and lower part of the vagina. Kidneys may not work well because the tumor are large enough to block tubes through which urine passes

Stage IV Cancer has spread to other organs like rectum or bladder. It may also have invaded others parts of the body like the lungs and liver.

TEST AND DIAGNOSIS

PAP SMEAR It is done to check for abnormal cell changes of the cervix and to screen for cervical cancer. Doctor brushes cell of the cervix and send it to the lab. Sample is checked for any abnormalities

HPV DNA Test Cells of the cervix are collected and taken to the lab. This is to check if you have any strain of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.

Cervix Examination This is known as colposcopy. During this process, a doctor uses a special microscope to check for cell abnormalities in the cervix. If some abnormalities are found, a biopsy is done.

Cone Biopsy This is when cone-shaped sample of the cervix. This procedure allows a doctor to obtain deeper layers of the cervix for lab testing

Endocervical Biopsy This is to look for cancer cells in the cervical canal

Blood Test Complete blood count test is done to check for anemia. Chemistry screen is also done to check for liver and kidney functions.

Chest X-ray, a CT scan, an MRI, or a positron emission tomography (PET) is done to check if cancer has spread

Punch biopsy Doctor uses a sharp tool to pinch off small samples of tissues of the cervix.

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) A thin, round piece of cervical tissue is sliced off using an electric wire loop

TREATMENT

Chemotherapy It may be used as the main treatment or used after hysterectomy. It used medicine to kill cancer cell and may be used along side radiation. It is also used to relieve symptoms in women whose cancer has spread.

Radiation It is effective for early stages of cancer and often used in combination with surgery. If cancer is advanced, radiation is combined with surgery.

Surgery Hysterectomy, which is surgery to remove the uterus in done in early stages of cervical cancer. This surgery can cure the cancer and prevent it from coming back but patients are unable to have children afterwards.

PREVENTION

Use latex condom every time you have sex to prevent infection with HPV
Get the HPV vaccine
Reduce number of sexual partners
Quit smoking
Delay first sexual intercourse
Have a regular PAP screening
Avoid intimate sexual contact with anyone who had an STI

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