Cervical Cancer

General Illness Information

Common Name:
Cervical Cancer

Medical Term:None Specified

Description: A common, but treatable, cancer of the cervix (the lower third of the uterus, which opens into the vagina). It can affect women of all ages, but most common between ages 40 and 55.

About 85% of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinomas i.e. they arise from the scaly, skin-like cells covering the outside of the cervix. Most other cervical cancers develop from gland cells (adenocarcinomas) or a combination of cell types (adenosquamous carcinomas).

Invasive cancer of the cervix commonly involves the vagina, and the pelvic sidewalls.

Causes: Unknown. Possibly related to viral infections, including human papilloma virus.

Prevention:

  • Avoid the risks listed above as far as possible.
  • Start pelvic examinations at age 18 or at the beginning of regular sexual activity.
  • Have regular Pap smears (test done to detect cancer of the cervix in an early treatable stage). Regular Pap smear is very effective in detecting precancerous changes or cervical cancer in its symptom-free stage. Pap test can accurately and inexpensively detect about 90% of cervical cancers, even before symptoms appear.

Signs & Symptoms

In the early, easily treatable stages:

  • No symptoms

In later stages:

  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding.
  • Persistent vaginal discharge.
  • Pain and bleeding after intercourse

Late stages:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Leaking of feces and urine through the vagina.
  • Appetite and weight loss.
  • Anemia.

Risk Factors

  • Low economic status.
  • Early age of first intercourse.
  • Multiple sex partners.
  • Multiple pregnancies.
  • Human papilloma virus infection (genital warts).
  • Chronic recurrent vaginal infections (bacterial or viral, including genital herpes and genital warts).

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Diagnostic test may include a pelvic examination and a Pap test, followed by a biopsy if a suspicious lesion is seen.
  • CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis – detection of metastasis.
  • Chest x-ray
  • Lymphangiogram-for assessment of lymph node involvement.
  • Surgery to remove the cancerous area of the cervix (cone biopsy), which preserves childbearing abilities. More advanced stages may require a hysterectomy.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy (internal, external, or both) are possible treatments for advanced cancer.
  • To receive additional information calls the American Cancer Society 1(800) ACS-2345. Another source is the Cancer Information Clearinghouse at 1(800) 4-CANCER.

Medications:

Medicine usually is not necessary for this disorder, if it is diagnosed and treated early. If radical surgery and additional treatment are required, anticancer drugs may be prescribed.

Activity:

No restrictions. Resume sexual activity once you have medical clearance.

Diet:

No special diet.

Possible Complications:

If cervical cancer is not treated early, it spreads beyond the uterus, lymph nodes and other organs.

Prognosis

Curable if diagnosed before the tumor has spread.

Other

Nothing specified.

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