I am a father of six female children. They are all grown up and four are married at the moment. One of them was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer. We are devastated with the news. Please enlighten the public about this problem.
Thanks Kelechi for your question. Let me provide simple anatomy information for you to understand the problem better. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb). It is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part).
The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix). The two main types of cells covering the cervix are squamous cells (on the exocervix) and glandular cells (on the endocervix). These two cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. Most cervical cancers start in the transformation zone.
Cervical cancer usually develops very slowly. It starts as a precancerous growth. This precancerous condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100% treatable. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
1. Exposure to sex at an early age.
2. Keeping multiple sexual partners.
3. Poor economic status (may not be able to afford regular pap smears).
4. Sexual partners who have multiple partners or who participate in high-risk sexual activities such as sex without protection.
5. Weakened immune system.
Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur can include
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause.
2. Any bleeding after menopause.
3. Continuous vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling.
4. Periods become heavier and last longer than usual.
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include:
1. Back pain and leg pain and pelvic pain
2. Bone fractures
3. Fatigue and weight loss
4. Heavy bleeding from the vagina.
5. Leaking of urine or feces from the vagina.
6. Loss of appetite.
7. Single swollen leg.
Precancerous changes of the cervix and cervical cancer cannot be seen with the naked eye. Special tests and tools are needed to spot such conditions.
1. Pap smears screen for precancers and cancer, but do not make a final diagnosis.
2. If abnormal changes are found, the cervix is usually examined under magnification.
3. Endocervical curettage (ECC) to examine the opening of the cervix.
4. Cone Biopsy .
1. Early cervical cancer can be cured by removing or destroying the precancerous or cancerous tissue. There are various surgical ways to do this without removing the uterus or damaging the cervix, so that a woman can still have children in the future.
2. A hysterectomy (removal of the uterus but not the ovaries) is not often performed for cervical cancer that has not spread. It may be done in women with advanced cancer.
1. It is very important to ensure prevention of cervical cancer through provision of vaccine to female children, practicing safe sex (using condoms) also reduces risk of Human Papilloma Virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
2. Also limiting sexual partners as well getting regular Pap smears can help detect precancerous changes, which can be treated before they turn into cervical cancer.
3. Pap smears effectively spot such changes, but they must be done regularly. Annual pelvic examinations, including a pap smear, should start when a woman becomes sexually active, or by the age of 20 in a nonsexually active woman.