Cervical cancer affects the cervix, the entrance to the womb. Cervix is the narrow part of the lower uterus or womb and is often referred to as the neck of the womb.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common cause of the majority of cervical cancer cases. The HPV vaccine prevents HPV and thus is a preventive measure against cervical cancer.
Earlier, the HPV vaccine was suggested for females aged 9–26 years. However, the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) now suggests that the HPV vaccine is also available for all females aged 26–45 years who had previously received the vaccine as a preteen.
In the early stages of cervical cancer, the female may experience no symptoms at all. So, the female should undergo regular cervical smear tests, or Pap tests, which can prevent cervical cancer.
A Pap smear test is a preventive measure. It aims to detect cancer and also reveal any abnormal cell changes which can indicate possible development of cancer so that the female can take action to treat it in the early stages.
Common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
- Irregular vaginal bleeding between periods
- Bleeding after sex
- Bleeding after menopause
- Discomfort during sex
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Vaginal discharge with blood
- Pelvic pain
The symptoms can have other causes as well, like an infection. A female who experiences any of the symptoms should see a gynecologist.
Cancer is caused due to uncontrolled growth and the division of abnormal cells. Most of the cells in the human body have a set lifespan. When the cells die, the body generates new cells to replace the dead ones.
Abnormal cells can have these problematic characteristics-
- They continue dividing
- They do not die
This can cause an excessive build-up of cells in the body. This eventually forms a lump, or tumor, leading to cancer. Medical experts are not sure why cells become cancerous.
However, some risk factors can readily increase the female’s risk of developing cervical cancer. These risk factors include-
- Having many sexual partners or becoming sexually active early
- A weakened immune system
- Birth control pills
- Other sexually transmitted diseases or STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis
Cervical cancer treatment options vary as per the stage of cancer, age or overall health of the female. Various treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or combinations of them.
Treatment for the early stage of cervical cancer (when cancer has not spread and remains within the cervix) has a good success rate. Further cancer spreads inside the body from its original area, the lower gets the success rate of the treatment.
The stage at which a female receives a cervical cancer diagnosis can help indicate her chances of survival for nearly 5 more years-
- Stage 1 of Cervical Cancer- In early stage 1 of cervical cancer, the chance of the female’s survival for at least five years is 93%, and in late-stage 1, the survival rate for 5 years is 80 percent.
- Stage 2 of Cervical Cancer- In early stage 2, the 5-year survival rate is 63 %. It falls to 58 % by the end of stage 2.
- Stage 3 of Cervical Cancer- During stage 3 of cervical cancer, the cervical rate falls to 35 % to 32 %.
- Stage 4 of Cervical Cancer- Females with stage-4 cervical cancer have a 15 to 16 % chance of surviving for the next 5 years.
These are the average survival rates of cervical cancer for 5 years post-diagnosis. However, it can vary and does not apply to every case. In some cases, the treatment is more successful up to stage 4.