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Cervical cancer symptoms, causes and treatments

Cervical cancer is the most common melanoma in women, and in developing countries it remains a leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women.

Cancer is a condition in which body cells grow out of control. Cervical cancer is cancer arising from the cervix. The disease is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus which causes abnormal growth of cells with ability to invade and spread to other parts of the body.

People who have been immunized with HPV vaccines or have being infected by the virus have a low or no risk of developing cervical cancer. When cervical cancer is at its early stages there are normally no symptoms.  However, taking cancer screening tests (pap smears) can help detect cervical cancer when it is at its early stages, where it is highly treatable. Although these screening procedures are not 100% accurate, the tests often offer an effective method for detecting cancer causing cells in the cervix.

Causes of cervical cancer

Basically, cancer is a result of a change in DNA cells caused by HPV. DNA that is present in human cells, controls reproduction of cells and their growth. If a change occurs, it is referred to as mutation. This change can alter the instructions which control growth of cells, which results in abnormal cell growth which turn into lump tissues (tumour).

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a group of viruses and there are more than 100 different types, although only about 15 types are considered high-risk. This virus is spread during sexual intercourse and around 1 in 3 women will develop the infection within 2 years of regular sex.

Although HPV infection is common, only a few women are vulnerable to the effects of HPV infection. This means apart from HPV being the main cause of cervical cancer, there are other factors which include:

Smoking – women who smoke regularly are more exposed to developing cervical cancer than women who do not. This is because tobacco contains harmful chemicals which affect the cells on the cervix.

Weak immune system – medications such as immunosuppressants which are used to stop the body from rejecting body organs can also cause cancer as well as conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

There has being enough debate on whether the oral contraceptive pills causes cancer, well women who have been on the pill for more than five years are said to be at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer symptoms

Cervical cancer symptoms are not always obvious, and symptoms may not be seen until it reaches an advanced stage. This is why it is important to regularly go for checkups.

Unusual bleeding: vaginal bleeding is mostly the first noticeable symptom of cervical cancer. This bleeding occurs after having sex, irregular bleeding between menstrual periods, and after menopause bleeding.

Other symptoms of cervical cancer include pain during sex, vaginal discharge which has a foul odor, unexplained changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Some advanced symptoms of cervical cancer may include anemia due to abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, urinary problems as a result of kidney or urethra blockage, abnormal opening between the vagina and bladder or rectum (fistula) which causes urine leakage into the vagina, severe pain on the side  causes by kidney swelling, loss of bladder control, legs swelling, blood in urine and weight loss.

In younger women, irregular minor bleeding can be ignored and spotting between periods may not be a cause to alarm, however, it can also mean cervical cancels are present thus the need to undergo a test.

Cervical cancer treatment

Cancer may have started the fight, but you have to finish it.

Surgery for cervical cancer involves three main types of surgery, radical tracheloctomy where the surrounding tissue of the cervix and part of the vagina are removed while leaving the womb intact.

Hysterectomy: this involves removing the womb and depending on the stage of the cancer, the ovaries and fallopian tubes may need to be removed. Pelvic exoneration is where the cervix, vagina, womb, bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes and the rectum are removed.

Radiotherapy

For early stage cervical cancer, radiotherapy may be used. However, for advanced cervical cancer chemotherapy may be used to control bleeding and maintain pain. Radiotherapy can be delivered in two ways; one is externally where high-energy machine beams are directed into the pelvis. The other one is internally where radioactive implant is placed inside the vagina and cervix. However, there are cases that call for use of both external and internal radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy

This is the most efficient procedure for curing advanced cervical cancer. It can be used solely or combined with radiotherapy. It involves using cisplatin which is a single chemotherapy medication or combining different chemotherapy medications to destroy cancerous cells. Administering the medication is usually on an intravenous drip on outpatient basis.

Cancer patients never forget that, recovering from cervical cancer is not brought about by the physician or the advanced treatment one has to undertake, but by you. You heal yourself, by own power just as you walk by own power or eat or think, breathe or sleep.

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