- What Does Cervical Cancer Mean?
- What People are More Prone to Having the Cancer?
- What is the Procedure of the Cervical Screening Test?
- The Reasons for Cervical Cancer
- Other Factors that May Contribute to you Having the Disease in Future
- Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
- The Process of Diagnosing and Assessing of Cervical Cancer
- The Treatment Options
- Future Prognosis
What Does Cervical Cancer Mean?
We’ll start by pointing out that there exist 2 types of the disease.
They are as follows:
- Squamous cell cervical cancer that is considered to be the most frequent to occur. It attacks the squamous cells that line the neck of the womb (or cervix). As a result of the cancer influence, the cells turn into cancerous cells.
- Adenocarcinoma cervical cancer that doesn’t occur as often as the one mentioned above type of cervical cancer. It attacks glandular cells (the ones responsible for the production of mucus) located inside the cervical canal. Due to the harmful influence of the disease, the cells turn into cancerous cells.
Keep in mind that both of the diseases described are, as a rule, diagnosed and treated in the same way.
What People are More Prone to Having the Cancer?
In the majority of cases, these are exactly the women over 30 or 40 that are diagnosed with it. However, it, sometimes, so happens that the disease is detected in even younger women. At the same time, it’s unlikely for the disease to develop in women who are under 25.
This type of cancer is stated to be the 12th most frequently occurring type of cancer. Still, the rate of the cases detected every year has dropped down lately. The possible reason for it is that it’s possible to prevent the occurrence of the cancer by undergoing cervical screening tests on a regular basis.
What is the Procedure of the Cervical Screening Test?
In the UK, women have an option of undergoing cervical screening test on a regular basis. The test involves a sample of the cells taken from the surface of your cervix’s neck. The sample it then taken to the laboratory where doctors study it under a microscope. Even though in the majority of cases the cells are stated to be normal, sometimes, there are abnormal cells detected as well. Besides, the test may be carried out with the view of detecting HPV (also called human papillomavirus). It is a type of wart virus that also has to do with the development of cervical cancer (more details will be given later).
If there has been detected cervical dyskaryosis, it doesn’t mean that you have cervical cancer. The disease only implies that there are some abnormal cells of the cervix that, however, are not cancerous. Doctors, sometimes, call such like cells “pre-cancerous” or “dysplatic”. Actually, the cells vary according to the degree of abnormality.
Consequently, there exist the following cases of cervical dyskaryosis:
- Mild dyskaryosis that implies only a slight change of the cells. Doctors have a special term for such like case – cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (or just CIN 1).
- Moderate dyskaryosis that the doctors call CIN 2.
- Severe dyskaryosis occurs when there is a high degree of the cells’ abnormality. However, they haven’t yet become cancerous. The particular term used for this case is CIN 3.
As amazing as it is, but these abnormal cells often don’t turn into cancerous ones. There are even cases when they become normal again. Still, bear in your mind that, sometimes, they do progress to cancerous ones. Usually, this process takes years.
If changes that occur in your case are only borderline, most likely, you’ll be said to undergo one more test in several months. The crux of the matter is that cells with only a slight abnormality very often become normal again in several months. Treatment may be prescribed if the abnormality doesn’t go away. If a woman is suffering from moderate or severe abnormal changes, the treatment provided will kill all the abnormal cells in the cervix before they result in cancer.
The main idea here is that if you undergo screening tests on a regular basis, it’s not likely that you’ll be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Of course, you are strongly recommended to follow the advices of your doctor and undergo the treatment on time, if there is a need.
The Reasons for Cervical Cancer
It’s very important to remember that the development of the tumor begins with only one cell. Doctors believe that there is something that sets the process of the genes’ alterations off. As a result of the process, the cells turn into very abnormal and there is no way to keep the process of their division under control. If you want to have more information about it, read through our leaflet on “What causes cancer?”.
There are cases when cancer starts developing from an already abnormal cell. The information about it is given above. Actually, very often it so happens that it takes years for the abnormal cells to turn into cancerous ones that then multiply under no control and form a tumor. HPV is, as a rule, a common reason for the pre-cancerous cervical cells being abnormal.
Other Factors that May Contribute to you Having the Disease in Future
The list of the factors is given below:
- Tobacco use. When you inhale the smoke, chemicals get into your bloodstream. Then, they may damage the cells in your organism. Therefore, those who smoke are twice as more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than those who don’t. Besides, if you smoke and you suffer from HPV infection, your risk is higher.
- Having a poor immune system also makes you a subject to the cancer. The fact is that those who are either diagnosed with AIDS or take immunosuppressant drugs have an elevated risk of the disease. The key point is that since the immune system is not capable of working the way it should, it is more complicated to fight against HPV and abnormal cells. Consequently, you may get ill with the cervical cancer.
- There is a suggestion that taking combined oral contraceptive pill (or just COCP) may have something to do with a little bit higher risk of the cancer. This is especially true if you’ve been taking the pill for more than 8 years.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Actually, there may be no symptoms in the very beginning as the tumor is quite small.
Once it becomes larger, you may have one of the following abnormal vaginal bleedings:
- Intermenstrual bleeding which means that there occurs a bleeding in between normal periods.
- Postcoital bleeding which means that there occurs bleeding after sex.
- Any vaginal bleeding in case of those women who have been through menopause.
Vaginal discharge accompanied by unpleasant smell or discomfort and painful sensations when you’re having sex is, sometimes, an early warning of you having the disease. All the symptoms described, however, may occur for a different reason. Anyway, if you notice any of them, you’re strongly recommended to talk them over with your doctor. Once cancer starts to attack other areas in your organism, various other symptoms may occur.
The Process of Diagnosing and Assessing of Cervical Cancer
The Confirmation of the Diagnosis
As a rule, there is a need for vaginal examination in case you notice any symptoms that are likely to result in cervical cancer. Your doctor is able to feel any abnormalities on the neck of the womb. Besides, your doctor will probably carry out a speculum examination. Here, the same instrument as the one needed for taking a smear from the cervix is used. Then, if your doctor suspects that you may have cervical cancer, you’ll be said to undergo colposcopy.
Colposcopy means that there will be a more detailed examination of the cervix carried out. The doctor gently puts a speculum into your vagina in order to see the cervix more thoroughly. Then, a colposcope is used to study the cervix in a more detailed way. The procedure takes 15 minutes. While carrying it out, the doctor usually takes a sample of the tissue from the cervix. This procedure is referred to as biopsy. The sample is then studied under microscope to detect any cancer cells.
The Treatment Options
A list of treatment options involves surgical operation, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or combination of these options. The treatment you’re provided with depends on your personal case and factors. This means that your doctor will consider not only the stage of your cancer, but also whether there are any other organs it has affected. The overall state of your health and your plans on having children in future are also taken into account.
There is a need for you to thoroughly discuss everything with your doctor who knows each tiny detail of your case.
He or she may tell you about:
- Advantages and disadvantages of the treatment.
- How likely it is it help you.
- Side effects that may occur as a result.
- Other treatment options that you’re free to choose from in accordance with your cancer stage and type.
If a patient’s cancer hasn’t attacked any other areas of the organism and is located only in the cervix, he or she has the most positive future prognosis. In this case, treatment successfully helps in 8-9 cases out of 10. If a woman is diagnosed with the cancer only when it has already invaded other areas of her organism, the success rate is lower. However, it still doesn’t matter that you’re doomed. Even if there is no way the treatment can help you get rid of the disease, it can keep it under control and make the process slower.
It should be also said that the outlook given is very approximate since there are new treatments being tested and developed in the area. The doctor who knows absolutely everything about your personal case can provide you with a more detailed and accurate information on your own outlook and how successful will the treatment be in your case.