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Cervical Cancer Awareness Month - Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

  • January 16, 2023
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Cervical Cancer Awareness Month - Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Cervical cancer is the 3rd most prevalent form of cancer in India among women. With an incidence rate of 18.3% (percentage calculated from 123,907 cases diagnosed) and a mortality rate of 9.1% as per GLOBOCAN 2020, there is an urgent need to spread awareness and promote cervical cancer screening as a preventive healthcare strategy. As per the age standardized incidence rate recorded among 100,000 affected individuals, 18 was the approximate recorded age. Also, as per a 5-year prevalence rate – the recorded average age was 42.82 as per 1 lakh population.

The National Cancer Registry Program has observed that cancer of the cervix uteri and breast were the most common causes of cancer among women. It’s important to know more about cervical cancer before we look into the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cervix's cells. The cervix is the uterus's lower, thin end (womb). The cervix is the tube that connects the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Cervical cancer typically develops gradually over time. Before cancer develops in the cervix, the cells undergo dysplasia, a process in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. If the abnormal cells are not destroyed or removed, they may develop into cancer cells and begin to grow and spread deeper into the cervix and surrounding areas.

Most cervical cancers are caused by different strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. When the body is exposed to HPV, the immune system usually prevents the virus from causing harm. However, in a very small number of people, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process by which some cervical cells develop into cancer cells.

Types of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancers are named after the type of cell that gave rise to the cancer. There are two main types:

Squamous cell carcinoma - The vast majority of cervical cancers (up to 90%) are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers arise from ectocervix cells.

Adenocarcinoma - Cervical adenocarcinomas form in the endocervical glandular cells. A rare type of cervical adenocarcinoma is clear cell adenocarcinoma, also known as clear cell carcinoma or mesonephroma.

Cervical cancer can exhibit characteristics of both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. This is known as mixed carcinoma or adenosquamous carcinoma. Cancer develops in other cervix cells very rarely.

Causes of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer develops when healthy cells in the cervix undergo DNA mutations. The DNA of a cell contains the instructions that tell the cell what to do.

Healthy cells grow and multiply at a set rate before dying at a set time. The mutations cause the cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably, and they do not die. The abnormal cells that are accumulating form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can break away from a tumor to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

 It is unknown what causes cervical cancer, but HPV is known to play a role. HPV is transmitted through sexual contact (anal, oral, or vaginal) and can cause cancer. The majority of people will contact HPV at some point in their lives and be unaware of it because their bodies fight the infection. However, if your body does not fight the infection, the cells in your cervix can become cancerous. The other factors, such as your environment or lifestyle choices, also influence whether you develop cervical cancer.

Symptoms of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer symptoms do not appear immediately and take years to develop into a dangerous condition. Cervical cancer screening is the most effective way to detect the disease. Depending on the severity of the condition, additional cervical cancer symptoms can be detected.

Symptoms of Stage 1 cervical cancer

l  Blood in vaginal discharge with a foul odor

l  Vaginal bleeding following menopause, sexual activity, and during the menstrual cycle

l  Menstrual cycles that are longer and have a lot of blood flow

l  Cancer symptoms that have spread to nearby tissues and organs

l  Blood founzin urine

l  Severe fatigue, weight loss, and appetite suppression

l  Backache and pulmonary edema

l  Pain in the abdomen

l  Excessive pain and difficulty excreting

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should go to your nearest multi-specialty hospital and get a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer.

Prevention of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is entirely avoidable. HPV vaccination and regular screenings can significantly lower your risk.

Vaccination is the first step.

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Getting vaccinated is a simple way to prevent HPV.

HPV-related cancers, which include throat and rectal cancer in both men and women, are the only type of cancer for which a vaccine is currently available. HPV vaccination works best when administered as part of routine childhood vaccinations prior to virus exposure.

Children should begin the HPV vaccine series at the age of 9 and finish by the age of 13. Even if you've tested positive for HPV, the vaccine may still be beneficial. It may boost your immune response and protect you from other HPV strains you haven't been exposed to.

This vaccine is not advised to be used during pregnancy. If a woman receives the first dose of the vaccine and then becomes pregnant, she should wait until after delivery to receive the remaining doses. There is no need for MTP if the patient receives the vaccine while pregnant. During lactation, this vaccination is safe. This vaccine can be administered to women during their postpartum period.

The vaccine is approved for people up to the age of 45. So, if you're over the age of 26, talk to your doctor about whether the vaccine might be beneficial to you.

Step 2 is screening,

Although the HPV vaccine provides long-term protection, it does not protect against all types of HPV. It also does not prevent all types of cervical cancer. Regular screening is necessary because it aids in the detection of warning signs before they become a problem. When detected early, cervical cancer can usually be successfully treated.

Children's parents/caregivers must be educated about HPV vaccination. We must begin early in order to significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Medical Disclaimer

Any medical information referred to in or through our blog is provided as information only and is not intended:

  • as medical diagnosis or treatment
  • to replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner