Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus attached to the vagina.
Various strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections play a role in causing most cases of cervical cancer.
When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system prevents the virus from doing damage. However, the virus survives for years in a small percentage of people, and is involved in the transformation of some cervical cells into cancerous cells.
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by having screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection.
Cervical cancer symptoms
Just like other types of cancer, the symptoms of uterine cancer may not be visible in its early stages, as the symptoms of uterine cancer begin to appear after the disease develops and reaches advanced stages, to include some symptoms, and the most important and most famous symptoms of uterine cancer are the following :
- severe pain
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina without menstruation.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Pain in the pelvic area.
- Kidney failure as a result of obstruction of its work and the work of the urinary tract due to the development of cancer.
- An abnormal menstrual cycle, in which there is heavy or slight bleeding, or that lasts for a long period of time.
- Bleeding after intercourse.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause.
It is necessary to consult a doctor if any of these symptoms appear, as early detection of uterine cancer would help enhance the chances of treatment and recovery, and treatment of uterine cancer depends on the stage during which the disease is diagnosed, as the doctor finds the most appropriate treatment for your medical condition and stage the disease.
Cervical cancer causes
Cervical cancer occurs when changes (mutations) in the DNA of cervical cells develop into the DNA. A cell’s DNA contains instructions that tell the cell what to do.
Healthy cells grow and divide at a set rate and die at a set time. Mutations tell cells to grow and multiply out of control, and they don’t die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a mass (tumor). Cancer cells invade nearby tissues and can break away from the tumor to spread (metastasize) to other places in the body.
There is no clear cause of cervical cancer, but HPV certainly plays a role. HPV is a very common virus, and the majority of people infected with this virus do not develop cancer. This means that other factors — such as your environment or lifestyle choices — also determine whether you develop cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer types
The process of determining what type of cervical cancer you have helps determine your prognosis and treatment. The main types of cervical cancer are :
- Squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cell) that line the outer part of the cervix, which leads to the vagina. Most cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
- glandular cancer; This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.
Sometimes both types of cells are involved in cervical cancer. Rarely, cancer occurs in other cells in the cervix.
Cervical cancer treatment
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the staging of the tumor and the age or general condition of the patient and should, if possible, be performed by gynecological oncologists. In the case of pre-cancerous and early-stage cervical cancer, a single operation with a view to achieving a cure is usually sufficient.
If the tumor has already spread into the cervix but has not yet attacked parts of the vagina or pelvis, then surgery here is also the best treatment. The operation may be followed by chemotherapy. Preoperative chemotherapy is also possible to reduce recurrence of the disease.
In the event that cervical cancer extends further beyond the cervix itself, the decision must be made on the individual case whether another operation is possible or whether chemotherapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is the most conservative treatment for the patient and thus the possibility of maintaining a greater quality of life.
Pre-cancerous stages (CIN) can be checked regularly by a gynecologist for 24 months. These stages can go away on their own but may also progress. After this, this precancerous stage must be surgically removed. Either this can happen locally by removing the affected tissue (in case there is a desire to have children), or by removing the uterus completely. Even here each individual case should be specially monitored. While speaking with experienced medical professionals in a gynecological cancer center or developmental anomaly center, the patient’s wishes, individual choices and risks are weighed.
Cervical cancer early stage
At an early stage, lumpectomy (cervical conization) as in pre-cancerous stages may also be sufficient. Here, the affected tissue is removed using a scalpel or an electric loop and examined by a physician specializing in etiology. If the edges of the section are free of tumor tissue, a cure rate of 98% can be assumed.
In the event of a desire to have children, it is also possible, in exceptional cases, where the preservation of the uterus is possible. You should discuss this possibility individually with your gynecologist. He will show you the possibilities of fertility preservation operations as well as the risks involved.
Treatment of cervical cancer in the event of spread and bypassing the cervix
Cervical conization is not sufficient in the late stages of cervical cancer (a surgical intervention, often performed in outpatient clinics). Here, according to the cervical injury, parts of the vagina, ovaries and affected areas of the bladder and intestines must be removed. But this is decided individually. A non-surgical treatment consisting of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or internal (close-up) radiotherapy is often recommended.
The decision is up to the doctor of the cancer center within the so-called oncology conference to determine which non-surgical treatment for late-stage cervical cancer promises the best chances and works to limit the patient’s quality of life as little as possible.