Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It typically begins in the cells lining the cervix’s transformation zone, where the squamous and glandular cells meet. In most cases, cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. However, not all HPV infections lead to cervical cancer, and other factors, such as smoking and a weakened immune system, can also contribute to its development.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Risk Factors and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer.
- HPV Infection: Persistent infection with high-risk strains of HPV is the primary risk factor for cervical cancer.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals that can damage cervical cells and increase the risk of cancer.
- Weakened Immune System: Conditions or medications that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or immunosuppressive drugs, can make individuals more susceptible to HPV infections and cervical cancer.
- Early Sexual Activity: Engaging in sexual activity at a young age increases the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.
- Lack of Regular Screening: Failure to undergo regular Pap tests or HPV tests can delay the detection of precancerous changes in the cervix, allowing cancer to progress undetected.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause.
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
- Increased vaginal discharge that may be watery, bloody, or have a foul odour.
- Changes in bowel or urinary habits.
Prevention and Screening
- HPV Vaccination: Vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix can protect against the most common high-risk HPV strains responsible for cervical cancer. Vaccination is recommended for girls and boys aged 9-14, although it can be administered up to age 26 for females and age 21 for males.
- Safe Sex Practices: Practicing safe sex, including condom use and limiting sexual partners, can reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
- Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking can lower the risk of cervical cancer and improve overall health.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress can bolster the immune system and reduce cancer risk.
Screening of Cervical cancer :
- Pap Test: The Pap test, also known as Pap smear, is a screening test that involves collecting cells from the cervix to detect precancerous changes or early-stage cancer. It is recommended for women aged 21-65, with frequency varying based on age and previous test results.
- HPV Test: The HPV test checks for the presence of high-risk HPV strains in cervical cells and is often performed in conjunction with a Pap test for women aged 30 and older.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures, such as cone biopsy, loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), or hysterectomy, may be recommended to remove precancerous or cancerous tissue from the cervix.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells in the cervix.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing and dividing. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy for advanced or recurrent cervical cancer.
Q: Can cervical cancer be prevented?
A: While not all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented, the risk can be significantly reduced through HPV vaccination, practising safe sex, quitting smoking, and undergoing regular screening tests.
Q: How often should women get screened for cervical cancer?
A: Women should undergo regular Pap tests starting at age 21. The frequency of screening may vary based on age and previous test results, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider.
Q: Is cervical cancer treatable?
A: Yes, cervical cancer is treatable, especially when detected early. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches.
In conclusion, cervical cancer is a significant public health concern that can have a profound impact on women’s health and well-being. However, with knowledge about its causes, risk factors, and prevention strategies, we can take proactive steps to reduce our risk and protect ourselves and our loved ones. Remember, early detection through regular screening is key to preventing cervical cancer or catching it in its early stages when treatment is most effective. Let’s prioritise our cervical health and empower ourselves to lead healthy, fulfilling lives together.
Stay informed, stay empowered, and prioritise your health.